Role player Janalee Lyke played big part in softball team's success

Softball player Janalee Lyke smiles for a photo
Catcher Janalee Lyke was an integral role player for the Lakers, helping in the development of the pitching staff.
Image Credit: David LeFurge-McLeod

In her four years on the Grand Valley softball team, Janalee Lyke saw limited time on the field, but her importance to the team’s success went far beyond her hit totals.

While her career statistics may not reflect it, there’s no question about her influence on the program that won four GLIAC regular season championships, three GLAC tournament titles and made two appearances in the Women’s College World Series during her time.

“Growing up I always loved being a part of a team,” said Lyke. “Whether it was me being the star of the show, or someone else, I liked being a part of a team. Whatever part I can play in that, I was happy to do so.”

Named her team’s MVP at Schaumburg (Ill.) High School, Lyke understood if she attended Grand Valley, there likely wouldn’t be much opportunity to crack the starting lineup. 

Softball head coach Dana Callihan said Lyke eyed Grand Valley to pursue an education degree, but when it came to softball, playing time would be minimal and Lyke’s role would be considerably different than in high school.

“Even though she hasn’t gotten those stat lines in games, she has been an enormous piece in the development of our pitchers, and we all know that development’s been very good over the last few years,” said Callihan.

Still, it didn’t deter Lyke from developing her skills and becoming a dependable, dedicated teammate ready to contribute whenever she could, becoming a team favorite along the way.

“She’s helpful, and if I’m in the dugout and want to come out and pitch, she’s usually the one I’ll ask, and she’s more than ready to come out and catch,” said pitcher Hannah Dieck. 

Through her first three seasons, Lyke had one hit in seven games. She saw her most playing time this year, her final season, playing in four games leading up to her Senior Day.

On Senior Day, Lyke went 1-for-2, dropping a double into right field that drove in a run against Wayne State in the Lakers’ final home conference game of the season. 

She closed out her Grand Valley career with another RBI double, this one helping the Lakers beat Findlay and advance to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Division II Softball Tournament. 

The Lakers’ run to the Women’s College World Series ended in the Super Regionals, though, losing the best-of-three series to Southern Indiana.

“It felt great,” said Lyke of her Senior Day performance. “I knew what I needed to do. I’d been practicing every day for four years for a moment like that, and it ended up working in my favor.”