Local players giving Franklin College softball team a lift

Each year, the number of local athletes playing sports at Franklin College seems to increase.

But of greater note, they are making an increasingly big impact.

Take softball, for example.

Two of the Grizzlies’ top sluggers are from Johnson County high schools. So is their No. 1 pitcher. Their head coach also is a local guy.

Coincidence or not, the Grizzlies are enjoying unprecedented success.

Off to a 7-5 pre-conference start, they have the best winning percentage in the nine-team Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. With a number of the HCAC’s top players, they are poised to make a run at what would be their first-ever league title.

Three of those players, senior Katie Struewing and sophomore siblings Olivia and Grace Paszek, are from local schools.

Struewing, a four-year starter, is from Greenwood. A first baseman and outfielder, she has been one of the league’s top hitters throughout her career.

Although her early season batting average is down a bit, she leads the Grizzlies in RBIs (12), home runs (two) and is tied for the lead in doubles (four). She’s hitting a modest .286 but has a solid .571 slugging percentage.

If history is an indication, Struewing’s numbers will go up as the season progresses.

A first baseman/outfielder, Struewing hit .407 last season with a team-leading 28 RBIs. She belted 11 doubles, one home run and was twice named honorable mention hitter of the week by the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

In 2014, Struewing hit .406 with a school-record 18 doubles and finished the season with a .563 slugging percentage.

But she isn’t the only local player lending the Grizzlies a major hand.

Olivia and Grace Paszek are Franklin Community High School graduates and they, too, have enjoyed productive careers to date.

Franklin College’s top pitcher since her arrival, Olivia leads the staff with a 6-1 record, a 1.55 ERA and 28 strikeouts. Last season, she led the team with 11 wins, 103 strikeouts and was a third-team All-Central Region selection by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

Her sister, Grace, played meaningful innings as a freshman but has emerged as one of the Grizzlies’ top players this season.

A first baseman/third baseman, Grace is hitting .324 and is tied for the team lead in doubles with four. She has a .486 slugging percentage and has struck out only three times in 37 at-bats.

But the best part about all of the impressive stats is that they have been produced in the context of winning.

Franklin has done a lot of that since 2013, when a guy named Butch Zike was hired as head coach.

A long-time athletics director at Whiteland, Zike took over the Grizzlies program after retiring from a 38-year teaching/coaching/administrative career at the high school.

In Zike’s first season, the Grizzlies finished fourth in the HCAC standings and advanced to the conference tournament for the first time in seven years. The following season, they set a school-record for wins with 21.

Last season, they matched the record by winning 21 again.

Clearly, a little sprinkling of Johnson County’s finest has added a lot of zest to the Grizzlies’ program.

Golfer wins league honor

Speaking of Johnson County’s finest, Jacob Hash has wasted little time making an impact on the Grizzlies’ men’s golf team.A freshman from Franklin Community High School, Hash was named the HCAC Men’s Golfer of the Week after finishing third at Sunday’s DePauw Invitational.Hash carded a 73 to help the the Grizzlies finish third in the eight-team field.

Hash was an individual qualifier for Franklin high school at last season’s IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals.

Grizzlies earn academic honors

Ashley Myers, an Edinburgh Community High School graduate, has been selected to the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s All-Academic team for the 2015 fall season.Myers, a middle-distance specialist who also competes in the triple-jump and javelin, was honored for maintaining a grade point average of 3.30 or higher.On the collective front, Franklin’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams were also selected to the USTF and CCCA’s All-Academic team for the fall semester.

Teams are recognized for combined GPA’s of 3.1 or higher.

Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rmorwick@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.