March 16, 2014

Welcome to the Circle: Kelsey Gray

CLERMONT, Fla.-Junior Kelsey Gray hadn't pitched since seventh grade but when the need for additional pitching depth arose she offered to help out. In the second of a two-part series we will take a look at the conversion of a pair of outfielders (the feature on sophomore Sarah Sorensen can be found here) to becoming viable members of the Coast Guard softball pitching rotation.

"All three of our pitchers (Gray, Sorensen, and sophomore Kristine Kahl) really had an outstanding week for us," says pitching coach Bill Mullins. "They stepped in ready to pitch from the get-go and competed all week. The numbers back up their performance but more importantly I was happy to see how gritty that trio was out in the circle."

Gray decided to start pitching again because, as she put it, "there was a hole on the team that needed to be filled and I had previous pitching experience a while back." It hasn't come without its own struggles, however, admits Gray, "I hadn't pitched since seventh grade so that was probably the biggest challenge for me. Learning all the motions again and getting my pitches back was very difficult."

Further complicating her return to the circle was the fact that Gray is also a member of the Coast Guard women's swimming and diving team which meant she was limited with how much time she could actually practice in the pre-season. The swimming season only ended for her when the NEWMAC Championships wrapped up on February 23rd, leaving her limited time to shift gears to softball.

While she's gone through her share of struggles re-learning the trade and coping with early season demands by the coaching staff she finds the whole experience rewarding. "The most rewarding thing is being able to contribute to the team. I love playing out in the field with the girls and having them behind me gives me confidence."

Gray has returned to the circle after an eight year hiatus but she hasn't given up playing in the outfield. She's made a pair of starts in right field this season going 2-for-5 at the dish in addition to making two appearances in the circle. Gray has worked 3.1 innings in the circle this season and has a 4.20 ERA while giving up four hits and striking out four batters. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, she has managed to be competitive and has some bad luck to thank for the majority of the runs she's allowed.

"Kelsey's making strides and with a shortened pre-season is right where we want her to be at this point," says coach Mullins. "With continued hard work and patience we hope she'll continue to prove to be a viable member of our rotation moving forward and headed into NEWMAC play."

Coast Guard wrapped up their spring trip with a 6-4 record at the NTC Spring Games in Clermont, Fla. The Bears are scheduled to return to action on Wednesday, March 19th when they host Roger Williams for a double-header beginning at 3:00 pm.

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