Battle Ground’s rare combination leads to top seed in softball

Sling it and swing it: Three pitching aces can also crush it while hitting

The Battle Ground Tigers know what they’re doing from the pitching circle.

They also know what they are doing from the batter’s box.

All eyes on Mallory Meyer, Rylee Rehbein, and Cady Gruenberg, who have been slinging it and swinging it for Battle Ground softball. The three pitching aces also are known for their hitting abilities with the Tigers. Photo by Paul Valencia
All eyes on Mallory Meyer, Rylee Rehbein, and Cady Gruenberg, who have been slinging it and swinging it for Battle Ground softball. The three pitching aces also are known for their hitting abilities with the Tigers. Photo by Paul Valencia

“I’ve been told, ‘If you’re a pitcher, and you can hit, you’re called a unicorn,’” Battle Ground junior Cady Gruenberg said. “That’s not found a whole lot. When you get to college, most pitchers don’t hit. But we hit bombs.”

That unicorn reference might not necessarily be the case in high school softball. Oftentimes, a team’s best pitcher is among its top hitters.

But what makes Battle Ground softball a true rarity these days is the fact that the Tigers feel they have three aces from the circle, and all three of them can, as Gruenberg says, hit bombs.

Mallory Meyer, the senior, Gruenberg, and sophomore Rylee Rehbein have all gone yard for the Tigers this season. They all have huge batting averages. And they all have tiny ERAs. 

The best of both worlds, according to coach Jeremy Barr. 

“Those kids are slinging it, and they’re swinging it,” Barr said. “Those three pitchers are hitting the daylights out of the ball. To have three unbelievable pitchers working in the program, that’s unheard of in high school ball.”

It has been working to the tune of a 13-0 record going into the final week of this abbreviated softball season. Battle Ground is the No. 1 seed as the 4A and 3A Greater St. Helens Leagues hold a culminating event tournament. The quarterfinals are Wednesday. The semifinals and finals are Saturday at Camas High School.

With the pitching talent, Barr has a lot of options. He can stick with one pitcher one day, then go with another the next game. Or he could have two or all three pitch in the same game. 

Meyer said it has been an advantage to mix the pitchers in a game, making the opponents adjust to new looks when they come to the plate.

“It’s so cool,” Rehbein said. “If any one of us is having a bad day, we know there are two other girls who can easily back us up. The support is amazing. There’s always back-up. And we’ve grown up together so there is already that relationship. We can help each other out and work through any situation.”

The three aces all played Battle Ground Little League. Now, they have helped the Tigers to within three games of perfection.

“It would just mean so much to all of us, not having that season last year, and giving the seniors a chance to end on a really good note,” Rehbein said. “If we went undefeated, it would be such a positive end to this whole COVID situation and give everyone hope that, next season, we’ll be kicking.”

Meyer said everyone in the softball community is disappointed that there is no state tournament this year. So the focus had to turn elsewhere.

“Having an undefeated season at this point is the ultimate goal,” said Meyer, a multi-sport athlete who is also playing basketball for the Tigers. Meyer is going to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., to play basketball. 

“I think it would be awesome,” Gruenberg added of the potential for a perfect season. “Softball does not get a whole lot of recognition at our school. It would be awesome to show people what we can do because we are a really good group of girls.”

The Tigers are making the most of what is on the schedule. They have accomplished so much in Barr’s first real season as the head coach. But they are also doing it as a way to salute their former coach. Barr joked that it is his job not to mess up what Arielle Wiser had already established.

“Wiser built a tremendous culture here,” Barr said. “Everything we’re doing is based off of the culture she built. The fact that we’re blessed with a group of kids that just work their tails off … they’re all about softball and doing the right thing and competing like crazy. I’m blessed to be their coach.”

The Tigers feel blessed to even be playing.

“I’m really proud of this whole team for not taking anything for granted and understanding that we really are thankful we can get in any game that we can,” Rehbein said. “I think that’s why we’re undefeated so far because we’re going out, playing like it’s our last game because you don’t know. It definitely could be.”

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