Unity smooths Ranger changeApril 2, 2014
By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor
BRETZVILLE — Baseball and softball are one in the same, right? Four balls, three strikes, seven innings, nine players on the field?
“I used to be one of those people” who thought that, Kyle Greulich admits.
OK, so maybe it’s not necessarily a journey into the great unknown for Greulich, a 2004 Forest Park graduate who starred in baseball and played at Oakland City University and now heads up the softball program at his alma mater. But the first days of Greulich’s regime have been filled with adjustments — both for a coach warming up to a new game, and for Ranger players embracing the bits of change their new coach has installed.
Everyone involved made Greulich’s debut a success, as Forest Park logged the game’s first four runs and the final two on Tuesday to sneak past Evansville North 6-4 in Bretzville.
“I’ve taken a lot of these things that I’ve gained in baseball and brought it out here, but the girls have been tremendous in some things we’ve changed, some things they’re doing different than in the past,” Greulich said. “The biggest thing is the mental part. You’re coaching girls versus guys. How are they going to handle a little pressure compared to what guys handle? But they’ve definitely done a great job, and they’ve made it easy to start out.”
The question Greulich posed about pressure was deftly answered by the Rangers (1-0). Their 4-0 lead vanished, and from the third inning on, they struggled to catch up to Husky freshman Bailey Shorter, whose offerings came with more zip than starter Lyndsey Robinson. Shorter retired nine of the first 12 Rangers she faced. But in the sixth, Madi Giesler punched a single, 9-hole hitter Taylor Brames fouled off a trio of two-strike pitches before drawing a walk, and later, a pair of bobbles by the shortstop off of grounders by Katelyn Roos and Adria Giesler ushered home the go-ahead runs.
None of the Rangers’ four hits qualified as scorching, but Forest Park will settle for an offense that’s inching forward. In last week’s scrimmage, the Rangers struck out 17 times. Tuesday, they reduced that count to seven.
“Last year we kind of struggled with our hitting, but it can only get better from this point,” said Adria Giesler, who reached on an error and scored to ignite a four-run second inning.
“At practice we do a lot of tee work. We almost get to the point where we’re sick of it. We just have to do it correctly. That’s what pushes us. Even though we didn’t really have any big hits tonight, we put the ball in play, and (Greulich) emphasized that: If you put the ball in play, something good’s going to happen out of it. Even if you get thrown out, you’re at least making them move.”
For bettering their bats, the Rangers can take cues from a guy who can swing it a little bit.
Greulich once bashed four homers in a single game against Loogootee with a slugging percentage of nearly .850 one season while hitting better than .400 his last two seasons in high school. He’s not demanding those type of brawny figures anytime soon. Just “tweaks to what they’ve done, changing where their’s bat’s at, where their hands are at,” he said.
The Rangers have reciprocated the assistance when it comes to aiding Greulich with the game’s nuances.
Life used to be simple with the designated hitter in baseball. But, oh, now there’s that mysterious flex player. And the designated player. And the pile of accompanying rules about the substitution allowments for them. At one point Tuesday, Greulich conferred with the home-plate ump to make sure he was clear on a ruling and thanked him for the clarification while admitting “I’m still new at this.”
His players have helped him along, and they’re not afraid to clown around with the affable Greulich and give him some occasional grief.
“A little bit. Not too much, he’ll give it right back,” Ranger shortstop Emily Gutgsell said with a laugh. “But I like that.”
Similarly, it’s a well-balanced climate overall with Greulich in charge, the Rangers have noticed.
“It’s an atmosphere you want it to be. You walk on the field, you want to go to practice, and you want to get it, you want to work hard,” Adria Giesler said.
“He’s very authoritative, and that’s good, we need that. It’s been a good start,” Gutgsell added. “We need to start off good and decent, and when we don’t do what we need to, he gets on us, and we need to do it before he does that. He’s so dedicated to this team, and we need to be dedicated as he is.”
Greulich is still greeted with decisions, including his pitching situation. Amy Bockelman, who saw occasional time last season, started Tuesday and exited with a 4-2 lead after three innings. Ericka Lange whirled the final four frames for the win. Or, as Greulich termed it, “a deep sigh for me. Deep sigh of relief.”
“It took a lot of pressure off me, and I probably put a little bit too much on myself to succeed with these girls, but they’ve done a great job and accepted everything that we’ve thrown at them,” said Greulich, whose team hosts Clarksville on Thursday and visits Class 2A No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei on Saturday. “And tonight showed exactly where they’ve come from. I think some of them would have hung their heads in the past, and they still will this year; it’s going to happen. But tonight they pushed through adversity and handled it really well.”
Contact Brendan Perkins
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