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February 22, 2013
If you ask head coach Ken Eriksen he'll tell you that Sam Greiner was born into this world and at that exact moment the innate ability to play softball at a high level was given to her. The truth is probably closer to that then you would think.
"I've been playing softball for as long as I can remember," said Greiner.
Her father, Ted, wanted her to try every sport. She started playing t-ball when she was very young. She then moved up the ranks from recreational to club ball, and then made her way to Tampa to play in college.
At her high school in Sparta, New Jersey Greiner lettered in both softball and basketball. Although she excelled in both, she says softball has always been the sport for her.
"I clicked with softball more than I did to others (sports)," she said, "I realized that softball was more my passion since I was a pitcher I just loved the atmosphere."
The New Jersey native did start honing her craft in the pitcher's circle until she was 11, but she played catcher until her junior year of high school. When coaches told her she couldn't play both positions she went with the spot on the field that she thought she was the best at.
"I had to pick between pitching and catching because the always tell you that you can't do both," she said, "I picked pitching because I practice that more, and I like that better than catching."
Greiner's result inside the pitching circle proved she made the right decision. In her final two years of high school, Greiner posted a record of 27-4 as a starter. At the end of her senior year she had a 0.27 ERA, picking up first team All-State, All-Conference honors (along with many other awards), and helped steer her school to its first state championship.
The transition to collegiate softball came fast for Greiner. Club ball helped prepare her for the leap, but she says the speed of the game increased when she came to USF.
"When I was in club ball before college we played a lot of high-level tournaments, and high level teams," she said, "so the individual batters weren't necessarily harder to face, but just the overall speed of the game, and the atmosphere of the game, and the fact that you can't miss one pitch or else they're going to hit it. That aspect changed and I had to adjust."
Freshman year for Greiner was a learning year for her. She started 17 games and went 10-4. She had a 1.58 ERA and held opponents to just a .203 batting average. Beyond the numbers, Greiner says she learned how to really throw the ball in her first year as a Bull.
"Now I have a real good understanding of how to pitch and not just throw," she said, "coach always tells us 'don't just throw, pitch' you've got to make the ball move, you've got to make batters off-balanced and whatnot."
Greiner had the unique opportunity to be a freshman pitcher on a Bulls team that went 50-14, and made it all the way to the school's first ever College World Series appearance.
"It was awesome," she said reflecting on the experience, "I wasn't expecting it- not that I didn't think our team could, just as a freshman you don't expect anything coming in. I was just happy to be here, happy to play as much as I could, and help my team out any time I got the chance to."
Making it to the series her freshman year has only made Greiner hungrier to return. She and the team are driven to make it back every year.
"As a freshman getting there it was great, but I don't want anyone to settle, and I know that I'm not settling. So I would really love to get there every year."
Now a seasoned player (sophomore), Greiner's goal is to get better every day.
"Some people think that once you're in college that's it, but there is still so much to learn our coaches are amazing and have so much to offer," she said, "I have two great pitchers to look up to in Lindsey (Richardson) and Sara (Nevins)."
The guidance from the more senior pitchers has had a huge influence on Greiner's development over the past year and a half.
"Having them to look up to just makes me work harder because I know how good they are, and I know how good you have to be to play at this level, and my goal is that I just want to become a smarter and better player this year," she said.
Greiner's next chance for action will be this weekend as the Bulls head to Clearwater to play in the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Coach Eriksen has said that he likes some of the match-ups that Greiner has with these teams because of her drop ball.
USF will play on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. at the Eddie C. Moore Complex. Teams slated for competition include Southern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, James Madison, UC-Davis, and Illinois State.
Four Things You Really Want To Know About Sam Greiner
I think I'd go with Benny & the Jet because of the one movie 27 Dresses. That's one of my favorite scenes, but I love Elton John, and think that's a really fun song to sing.
I'm really good at breakfasts. For dinner I cook chicken a lot. The other night I cooked teriyaki rice with teriyaki chicken and vegetables. It was so good!
Definitely my own shuffle the hands in the air thing. I'm not a very good dancer, but I just make up stuff, and try to have fun. I throw in the sprinkler every once in a while.
Ryan Gosling. Hands Down.