Campbell Grona furrowed her brows before Monday’s practice, trying her best to give an answer.
Several seconds later, she gave up and answered honestly: No, she’s doesn’t remember the title of the book. It still rests on her desk; though, she does know that.
The book in question remains important, because it provides insight into why the Tivy softball team has been so successful this season, and also because it helped transform Grona from a struggling player in 2018 into one of the best centerfielders in District 26-5A this spring.
Grona read the book after hitting .079 her junior year. She didn’t want to experience the same struggles at the plate her senior year, so she read a book that taught her methods to improve in the batter’s box. Basically, she did everything she could to ensure that she had the best senior year possible. She spent the summer playing select travel ball on Fredericksburg United with two of her Tivy teammates (Amber Pintsch and Kaitlyn Secor). And she logged hours in the weight room (Her personal records in squat and deadlift rank among the best on the team).
“She used the experience (from junior year) as motivation to get better,” Tivy coach Jeremy Hickman said.
The strategy worked. Grona realized she was overthinking at the plate, putting too much pressure on herself to produce. The book gave her strategies on how to relax in the box, how to flush out distractions during the game.
“I learned not to think about anything happening in the stands,” Grona said. “I learned just to focus on the ball and the bat. … I just have to swing like I’m in the cages or in practice — Just block out everything else and hit the ball.
“It worked because I have been hitting the ball really well this year.”
Yes. Yes, she has. This season, she’s raised her batting average to .410, a 341-point increase from last year. Last season, she mustered just three total hits. This year, she has registered five three-hit games. Her performance this season is a major reason why the Lady Antlers (25-11-2 are in the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2001, where they will play Dripping Springs in a one-game series on Friday at St. Mary’s University.
“She really has had a great year,” Hickman said. “Her improvement coming through in the No. 7 spot has been big. She’s had a bunch of big hits, a bunch of big RBIs for us at the right time. … When she hits the ball, she’s going to hit it with authority if she gets a barrel on it.”
That might be her greatest attribute this season: Delivering big hits in big moments. She recorded three hits during Tivy’s 10-8 win over Boerne Champion on March 14, a game which helped the Lady Antlers’ strength their lead in the district standings. And she’s been a force at the plate this postseason, slashing .643/.688/.929 in four postseason games.
“I’m super happy with her production,” Hickman said. “She just has to continue to work and believe in herself.”
But she hasn’t just produced in the box, she’s been a revelation in centerfield as well. Hickman moved her from left field to center before the Lady Antlers’ contest against Madison on March 2. She’s been playing the position ever since, continually robbing opponents of extra-base hits with her ability to sprint long distances in a short amount of time to snag fly balls.
When pitching in the circle, Secor sometimes makes eye contact with Grona and starts to relax. It’s easier to pitch knowing that Grona is patrolling centerfield.
“Every time, (an opposing batter) hits the ball, I think, ‘Please go to Campbell,’” said Secor, laughing. “I love when the ball is hit to her because there is no way she is going to mess up. … I trust her 100 percent.”
The Lady Antlers will need Grona to continue to play at a high level — both at the plate and in the outfield — this Friday when they face Dripping Springs. There’s a reason the Lady Tigers (35-2) have only lost twice this year. Their ace pitcher, Logan Hulon, has posted a 0.60 ERA in 105 innings with a five strikeout-to-walk ratio. Without a doubt, she will be the best pitcher the Lady Antlers will face this season.
But they aren’t worried. During Monday’s athletic period, the Lady Antlers told each other they were going to win. They will just have to give their best performance.
Grona will use the same strategy that has worked all season: She’s just going to concentrate on the bat and the ball whenever she steps into the box, and tune out everything else.
“If we all think (we can win), I think it can happen, it really can,” Grona said. “We have so much potential: It just needs to come out. We just have to be us.”