LAKE ERIE (20-14, 14-7 GLIAC) vs. GRAND VALLEY (23-8, 14-3 GLIAC)
The Lake Erie Storm -- winners of five straight games -- return home on Friday and Saturday to face the seventh-ranked (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) Grand Valley State (Mich.) Lakers. The Storm head into the three-game set off an impressive doubleheader sweep at Walsh on Wednesday. In those two games -- pitchers' duels with scores of 3-1 and 2-1 -- Lake Erie lowered its April ERA to 3.30 and moved within a game of second-place Wayne State (Mich.) in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
In first place in the GLIAC standings is a Grand Valley team that has lost just eight times this year, with five of those being by one run. Heading into a Thursday-afternoon tilt at Saginaw Valley (Mich.), the Lakers had won 7-of-their-last-8. The 16-time GLIAC champions went 4-0 against the Storm a year ago, with half of those wins being of the one-run variety. In 14 all-time meetings, GVSU is 11-3 against LEC.
The Lake Erie-Grand Valley games mark the midst of a challenging stretch in the LEC schedule. That stretch has the Storm playing 11-of-13 games against teams that were over .500 in league play as of April 12. The April version of Storm Baseball looks to be up to that task -- the Green & White are 9-4 this month and that includes four wins against one loss on the team's home turf at Braggs Field.
MEETING ON THE MOUND: Through Wednesday, Grand Valley (3.25) and Lake Erie (3.45) ranked first and third, respectively, in GLIAC ERA . Both teams have two hurlers in the circuit's top-10 in individual ERA. LEC's entrants on that list are Heath Kelley (1.26 ERA, third) and Russ Hogue (2.29, ninth). Pitching in a swing role thus far, Tiffin's Tyler Nichols sports the GLIAC's lowest ERA. He owns a 0.32 mark in 28 innings.
BRAWN IN THE BOX: GVSU's Giancarlo Brugnoni and LEC's Lucas Raley rank 1-2 in the conference's 2014 home-run race. Brugnoni has hit nine; Raley has smacked six. The Lakers (20 home runs, first) and Storm (14, second) rank 1-2 among GLIAC teams in round-trippers. LEC hit 17 home runs in 48 games a year ago.
RAGING ON: SP Heath Kelley has been a run-stopper in more ways than one this season. The port-sider who now owns a tidy ERA of 1.26 held Walsh without a stolen base on Wednesday. In 43 innings pitched, Kelley has allowed just two steals (in three attempts). As a team, LEC has yielded 33 thefts in 43 attempts. … 3B Zack DeCamp had a six-game hit streak snapped in Wednesday's opener – he went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly in the game. The sophomore slugger went 1-for-3 in Wednesday's second game. … Lucas Raley is batting .414/.514/.793 (batting/on-base/slugging) over LEC's last nine games. Prior to Wednesday's nightcap – which saw him collect a game-winning single – Raley had notched at least one extra-base hit in five straight games. He has now hit safely in six straight games and has registered seven multi-RBI games on the year. … CF Aaron Lindgren's game-one triple on Wednesday marked the 10th of his career. … As a team LEC got its leadoff hitters aboard in just 3-of-14 innings on Wednesday. That performance comes on the heels of the Storm posting a .500 OBP in such situations over their previous five games.
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