‘Gimme the ball’
News-Gazette Photo/Andrew Sullivan
Osceola High pitcher Jake Grenus was untouchable during the Class 7A state baseball playoffs, stringing together 16 straight scoreless innings while helping the Kowboys reach the state tournament.
Osceola’s Grenus was No.1 option
By Rick Pedone
Jake Grenus is the kind of guy a baseball coach loves to have in the dugout.
His whole mentality can be summed up like this: “Gimme the ball!”
Grenus (8-1, 0.95 ERA)completed one of the best seasons ever by an Osceola High pitcher by pitching eight scoreless innings at the Class 7A state tournament semifinals, where the Kowboys lost a 13-inning marathon to Tarpon Springs East Lake, 1-0.
“Yeah, I could tell that it was time to come out. I was starting to feel it,” Grenus, who threw a season-high 112 pitches, said. “It was hard, but I knew that my teammates would do a great job, so I was in the dugout, supporting them.”
Grenus was one of several excellent pitchers on Coach Scott Birchler’s staff, but there was no question that he was the No. 1 guy.
“We refer to him as a mini Curt Schilling (a World Series winner with Boston and Arizona). He has that bulldog build and mentality. He wants the ball in the big games and he knows how to pitch,” Birchler said.
No doubt about that. Grenus, the Osceola News-Gazette Baseball Player of the Year, strung together a remarkable 16 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason. After winning the regional quarterfinal game at Bartow, he pitched the seventh inning to save a semifinal victory at Haines City, and he followed that with seven scoreless innings to beat Tampa Sickles, 3-0, in the regional final.
Then, there was his standout effort against East Lake at the state tournament at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He walked three and struck out six during his eight-inning stint.
Grenus said the Kowboys expected a tough, low-scoring game at the state tournament.
“The coaches did a good job scouting them. We knew they had couple real good pitchers,” he said.
He said the team was ready for the state tournament.
“Really, it was exactly what we expected, and it really went the way we expected. We just couldn’t get the hit when we needed it,” he said.
Grenus, a Kissimmee native, has concentrated on baseball since middle school.
“I played football until the seventh grade, but I gave that up,” he said. “I’ve played third base, but all I do now is pitch. I’d like to hit, but I never get a chance.”
Birchler said that Grenus has college-level potential.
“He’s topped out at 87 mph on his fastball. He’s probably 82-85 consistently,” Birchler said. “He can hit spots, mix up pitches and put it by the hitter at times, as well. Schools are starting to notice him. No offers yet, but I am sure they will begin to come in.”
With 14 seniors departing Osceola’s state tournament team, Birchler will lean heavily on Grenus, a junior, and other returning pitchers like Pedro Rodriguez and Javier Echevarria to get OHS through the playoffs again.
“Jake put in a lot of time to conditioning in the offseason and if he continues his work ethic he will see even more success in the future,” Birchler said.
Grenus said that he, and the OHS pitching staff, can carry the team next season.
“I think we have a chance to have an even better pitching staff next year,” Grenus said. “We definitely want to go back and win it next year.”