EDITOR'S NOTE: The Swnews4u.com Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.
By Jason Nihles, Boscobel Dial / The Platteville Journal / Fennimore Times
Gretta Grassel, Jr., P, Boscobel softball
BOSCOBEL — Boscobel junior Gretta Grassel will continue her softball career at the Division 1 college level playing in the SEC.
Grassel, a two-time Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association first-team All-State selection, recently wrapped up a brief recruiting process when she accepted a full scholarship offer to attend Mississippi State University and play softball for the Bulldogs beginning in the 2024–25 school year.
“I went to a camp at Mississippi State the last weekend of August and that really helped fueled my decision,” said Grassel, who took an official visiting to MSU the weekend of Sept. 23–25 and verbally committed to the Bulldogs that weekend.
Grassel had a partial scholarship offer from Wisconsin and was drawing heaving interest from other Division 1 schools like Iowa State, Buffalo (N.Y.), Fordham (N.Y.) and Creighton (Neb.), as well as D2 schools like Winona State (Minn.) and Mankato State (Minn.).
Grassel made a rather quick decision on her future considering the fact college coaches were not allowed contact with her until Sept. 1 this year, now that she is a junior.
“I started emailing D1 coaches when I was 14 just to let them know who I was and what travel teams I played for,” said Grassel. “I sent a lot of the coaches my schedule and they would come watch, but they couldn’t say anything to me or contact me until Sept. 1 this year.
“But I wanted to make my decision quick because the process was so stressful to me. Every weekend since I could I was either at a camp or on a visiting to a school. I just wanted to settle down and make a decision. To stay organized and try to talk to so many coaches all at once was overwhelming to me.
“Also, Mississippi State had everything I wanted. The coaching staff was super awesome and easy to talk to. They are very good people and I have trust in them. They have awesome facilities, the town has a small town feel and family atmosphere and that reminded me of home.”
Starkville, Miss. had a population of 25,495 in 2020, while Mississippi State University had an enrollment of 23,086 in 2021.
The Boscobel softball prodigy began her career as a 6-year-old playing T-ball and later coach-pitch in the Boscobel summer rec program following in the footsteps of her older sisters Olivia, 23, and Ava, 19.
“My oldest sister Olivia was really pretty good at softball and she first inspired me to play,” said Grassel. “I wanted to try and be like her.”
The youngest of the Grassel clan fell in love with the sport and almost immediately had big dreams.
Recently Grassel realized one of those dreams of becoming a Division 1 college player when she verbally committed to Mississippi State University in late September. She can’t officially signed her National Letter of Intent until Nov. 7, 2023 when she is a senior.
Grassel is the first MSU softball recruit from the state of Wisconsin.
“I didn’t really realize I was at that Division 1 level until this past year,” said Grassel. “I worried what if Sept. 1 came and no one called or emailed me. I didn’t have that self confidence in myself just yet, but my dad would always say, “no Gretta, you are good enough. They will see you as the real deal you are. You will have plenty of calls.”
The MSU Bulldogs went 37–27 overall last season and 10–14 to finished 11th in the 12-team Southeastern Conference (SEC) under coach Samantha Ricketts.
Mississippi State still qualified for the NCAA Division 1 tournament and battled back from a first-round loss to win the Tallahassee Regional with four straight wins, including back-to-back over the #2 overall seed and host Seminoles (53–5) in the regional championship game. MSU ended last season with a pair of losses to Arizona 3–2 and 7–1 in the Super Regionals.
Ricketts has a 97–55 (.638) overall record in her three season as head coach.
“If you’re not in the softball world you might not realize that the SEC is the big dream,” said Boscobel softball coach Claire Waltz-U’ren, who is also Grassel’s first cousin. “It’s pretty close to the MLB of the softball world.
“Those schools don’t have to look far for their talents. They are surrounded by girls that get the chance to play outside year round. Which is what made the fact that they found Gretta from this tiny town in southwest Wisconsin even more special.”
“Having the opportunity to be on this journey with her has been exciting and truly special,” added Grassel. “For those that don’t know we are family and softball is a love that runs deep for all of us. The common conversation from college coaches around her that attracted them to her was that she was a great teammate. Many of these college coaches aren’t just looking for talent, but also a selflessness and work ethic. Gretta has that among other standout qualities.”
Grassel, who grew up in Boscobel, began her travel ball career playing 10U for the Mad City Crush, and later played for teams such as GRB, Fire Pro and Midwest Speed out of the Twin Cities in Minnesota the past three seasons.
“Obviously starting at a young age really, really helped me, but I have had a pitching coach Doug Gardner since I was 9 or 10, (La Crosse). He has taught me everything I know about pitching. My parents somehow found his name and said I should go to one of his camps. I went to his camp in La Crosse when I was 9 or 10 and that’s how we met, and said he wanted to work with me.
“My dad (Corey) was my main hitting coach growing up because we live so far away from the resources of hitting coaches, so he kind of took over as my hitting coach. He would take me to the gym to hit in the nets or the batting cage twice a week and Doug would come down on Sundays to give me pitching lessons.
“Doug was super important taught me not only teaching me pitching skills, but also the mental side of the game. When I got to 16U he kind of just let me go as far as pitching, but he knows tons of college coaches and helped me make those contacts as well and helped get my name out there to college recruiters.
“Also my coaches at Midwest Speed, Tori Holt and Mike Orth, also advocated for me and made contacts with college coaches at some of our big tournaments.”
Grassel held Midwest Speed reach the Alliance National Championships two years in a row and was named a 2022 Extra Inning Softball First Team High School All-American this summer. She is also ranked #95 as a prospect for the Class of 2024 in the Extra Elite 100 softball player rankings.
“Gretta is a big-game player who come through wen the stakes are the highest,” said Holt. “She is a gritty player, who is solid on the mound, a power hitter who has speed on the bases and someone who can also play anywhere in the outfield. Gretta is that girl who makes big plays when we need them.”
Grassel was named Division 4 Player of the Year and Small Schools (D4–5) First Team All-State by the WFSCA last spring after leading the Bulldogs to a 21–1 overall record, a second-straight SWAL title with a 14–0 league record and the school’s first berth in the WIAA sectional finals.
Grassel and Boscobel posted a school record 21-game winning streak before ending the season with a 3–1 loss to eventual the 2022 D4 state runner-up Horicon (22–7) in last year’s D4 sectional finals.
“I think its really cool to be a part of that team success last year,” said Grassel. “It has been one of my goals to try and help change people’s mind that Boscobel isn’t a losing a community. It’s just super awesome to be a part of a winning team like that.
“For softball, I really, really want to get to the state tournament. I want us to keep improving as a team and not go backward or stay the same. I want little girls in the community to see our winning program and for them to want to grow up playing softball in Boscobel with the dream of going to state.”
Grassel was also named the SWAL Player of the Year, first-team All-SWAL and first-team all-region for a second-straight year last year as a sophomore.
She finished the 2021 season with an 18–1 record in the pitcher’s circle with one save, a 0.76 ERA and 296 strikeouts (fourth in the state) and just 30 walks in 129 2/3 innings pitched.
At the plate, Grassel was just as impressive, batting a SWAL-best .641 (41-for-64) with 10 doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 31 RBI, 31 runs, 17 stolen bases and 16 walks (including six intentional) to lead the Bulldogs in nearly every statistical category.
Grassel was a WFSCA First-Team All-State selection and the 2021 SWAL Player of the Year two years ago as a freshman when she led the Bulldogs to a 16–4 record and 12–2 mark in the SWAL to share the conference title.
She went 12–3 with a 0.41 ERA, a state-best 233 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 101 1/3 innings pitched, and hit a team-high .542 (32-for-59) with four doubles, three triples, three home runs, 18 RBI, a team-high 27 runs scored and 22 stolen bases as a freshman.
Grassel was a sophomore starter on the Boscobel girls basketball team that went 18–8 last year (one of the best seasons in school history) and played volleyball for the Bulldogs her first two year of high school, all while maintaining a 3.87 GPA. She tentatively plans to study business/sports operations or sports management at MSU, but that’s still two years away.
Right now, with her college decision already made she is looking forward to the upcoming basketball season and of course trying to make a run to the WIAA softball state tournament in the spring.
“My high school teammates are awesome,” said Grassel. “We usually have team dinners at my house during softball season. We have lots of inside jokes and we just have fun together. A lot of my softball teammates are also basketball teammates. We went to a tournament in the Dells last season for basketball and got a chance to really bond. It’s been so fun to be a part of this group that keeps growing closer the past two years in both sports.”
“And my high school coach Claire (Waltz-U’ren) is my cousin and she was also my first pitching coach when I was very young,” added Grassel. “She lets me be myself and really has trust in me on the mound and when I am at-bat. She is also one of my biggest fans. When I told her I committed to Mississippi State she actually cried.”
Grassel is the daughter of Corey and Penny Grassel of Boscobel.
“The other thing people don’t realize in the recruiting process that makes a huge difference is the type of parents these athletes have,” added Waltz-U’ren. “And Gretta comes from two of the best. They have been supportive and understanding not just for their daughter, but also for the programs she has played for. They buy into the team-first mentality.
“The final component to her success, and certainly not the least nor is it very press friendly in today’s world is her belief in a higher power. Gretta has put God at the center of this entire journey, always. Through injury, through uncertainty, all her fears and failures and especially every ounce of her success she has given right back to God. If I had to give you one reason why she stands out among others my answer is her faith.”
“My parents are my biggest supporters,” said Grassel. “They both push me hard because they know my goal was to also go big. My dad has been coaching me for a long time and my mom is also our physical trainer and she has helped keep me healthy. My freshman year my arm was not doing well and my mom took the extra time to help me with rehab exercises to keep me on the field.”
“My sisters like to joke around and say that I got the height of the family and the athletic genes, but I know they are proud of me so it’s cool.”
For the record, neither Olivia or Ava, who both started for the Boscobel softball team during high school, have never batted against their youngest sister.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Eli Adams, Sr., RB/DB, Potosi/Cassville football
Adams rushed for a game-high 146 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Chieftains to a 27–13 Six Rivers Conference title-clinching victory at Division 7 #4-ranked River Ridge last Friday night. In eight games this season, Adams leads the team in rushing with 957 yards and 11 touchdowns on 139 carries, while Friederick is close behind with 710 yards and six TDs on 119 carries.
Derek Digman, Sr., QB/DB, Platteville football
Digman completed 14 of 28 passes for 217 yards and four touchdown passes to lead the Hillmen to a commanding 34–7 Homecoming victory over Poynette last Friday night. Digman has completed 94 of 192 passes for 1,263 yards, 14 TDs and 8 interceptions this year for Platteville (4–4, 3–3 SWC), which can clinch an automatic playoff berth with a win over River Valley Friday night.
Noah Fritz, Sr., RB/LB, Belmont football
Belmont senior Noah Fritz ran nine times for 105 rushing yards with two touchdowns (9, 12 yards) and also rushed for two two-point conversions, while catching a team-high six passes for 124 yards and two more scores (7, 54) in the Braves' 64-30 win over Wisconsin Heights.
Mallory Olmstead, Jr., Lancaster girls cross country
Olmstead pace the Lancaster girls with a fourth-place finish out of 116 runners to lead the Flying Arrows to a third-place team finish at last Saturday's Riverdale Invitational.