Baseball uses bunts, multiple pitchers to defeat Grand Valley State in home opener

Freshman pitcher Ian Leatherman pitches the ball against Grand Valley State University on March 26 at Theunissen Stadium

The Chippewas used small ball and a different pitcher every inning to defeat Grand Valley State University 6-2 in the home opener on March 26 at Theunissen Stadium.

CMU took the lead on a two RBI bunt base hit from senior second baseman Jason Sullivan in the first inning and never let go of the lead from there. 

The Chippewas used nine total pitchers, a different one to start every inning.

In his first game in Mount Pleasant, head coach Jordan Bischel said it's great to be a Chippewa.

"We have a great group of guys who have really done everything we've asked and buy into everything we teach," Bischel said. "I'm very fortunate to have guys like this to work with."

Senior catcher Blake Cleveland said it was different catching different pitchers every single inning, but not difficult because he catches them all offseason.

"The biggest thing that came out of this for me is we have that much depth in our pitching staff," Cleveland said. "Guys can build some confidence and attack the strike zone with something to prove."

What happened

The Lakers jumped out to the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Parker Murdie hit an RBI single to left field to put GVSU ahead.

In the bottom of the second inning, CMU answered. Junior designated hitter Zach Heeke reached second base on a throwing error from the Lakers. Following a walk and a bunt base hit from junior center fielder Zach Gilles, CMU had the bases loaded with nobody out.

A sacrifice fly ball from sophomore catcher Griffin Lockwood-Powell scored the Chippewas first run. Then Sullivan hit the second bunt base hit of the inning, this one scoring two runs. CMU led 3-1 at the end of first inning.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Garrett Willis replaced CMU's starting pitcher Jack Collins after just one inning of work. He and the Chippewas would never look back.

It took until the fourth inning for the Lakers to leave CMU without a run scored in a single frame. CMU added runs one run in the second inning and three more runs in the bottom of the third. 

The Chippewas nine pitchers included Collins, Willis, junior Zach Kohn, senior Ian Leatherman, sophomore Brandon Reed, sophomore Logan Buczkowski, freshman Garrett Navarra and junior Grant Frazer.

"We've got some depth on the mound and a really deep staff and haven't had any midweek games to this point," Bischel said. "Some of these guys haven't had a lot of chances to pitch so I just thought it was really important that we use that depth to prepare them for the upcoming weekend."

Collins (1-1) was credited with the win, allowing one hit but no earned runs with a strikeout and walk. GVSU's Christian Sidoti was given the loss allowing five earned runs on five hits and four walks with the strikeouts.

The Lakers did drive across a run on a double from Ryan Blake-Jones in the top of the fifth inning, but they failed to get closer than four runs after trailing by as many as five tallies.

Gilles and Sullivan led the Chippewas at the plate, going 2-for-4 and adding an RBI apiece. Heeke, senior right fielder Jacob Crum and sophomore left fielder Gaoshua Williams each added a hit as well, while Cleveland picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly. CMU had four bunt singles in the game.

CMU has now won four of its last five games and scored five or more runs in those games.

Heeke said the team has changed its approach at the plate quite a bit from a season ago.

"Last year we were a small ball team and hit the ball the other way a lot," Heeke said. "This year coach Bischel has brought in a lot of energy and wants us to swing hard and find pitches we can do damage with in the gaps. Gap shots turn into home runs, singles turn into doubles."

The Chippewas will stay in Mount Pleasant for a three-game series to open Mid-American Conference play against Northern Illinois starting at 3 p.m. on March 29 at Theunissen Stadium.