MERIDIAN — With injuries mounting on their pitching staff last season, the Mountain View baseball team brought up a freshman from the junior varsity squad before the Bucks Bags Tournament.
Mavericks coaches believed that Will Grizzle had a bright four years ahead of him, but they wanted to make his first start was in a low-pressure situation.
After watching Grizzle pitch six shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out nine in a 10-0 win, Mountain View coach Matt Rasmussen knew there was no way the freshman was going to go back to junior varsity.
“He felt comfortable challenging hitters and going after guys,” Rasmussen remembers. “He answered the call and all of us looked at each other and said ‘wow, why did he even start the season at JV? He should have been up from the get go.’”
Grizzle has continued to shine on the mound for Mountain View, even as he has been put in higher-pressure situations. He’ll be in one of those high-pressure games when he takes the mound for the Mavericks (21-3) on Thursday in the opening round of the state tournament. Mountain View, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, will take on Idaho Falls (17-11) at 10 a.m. at Wolfe Field in Caldwell. The Tigers are expected to start Merit Jones, who is signed with the University of Utah and has posted a 16-0 high school record with a 1.50 ERA.
“With me and Merit, I honestly think it’s going to be a pitchers’ duel,” said Grizzle, who has a 6-0 record and 1.14 ERA in his sophomore season. “I just got to get zeros and hopefully we get good hitting.”
While Mountain View will be looking to Grizzle to give them a boost at the mound, he’s also become one of the Mavericks’ more consistent players at the plate this season. Grizzle is leading the Mavericks with a .407 batting average and is third on the team in RBIs with 19.
Just three of Grizzle’s 33 hits this season have been for extra bases, all triples, so he’s not hitting for power. He’s just been a consistent base hitter who has been able to keep the batting lineup moving.
Rasmussen said that he knew Grizzle could swing the bat well, in addition to his prowess on the mound, but with Tommy Whiles already in the lineup at first base, Grizzle was limited to just 16 plate appearances during his freshman year.
He still took advantage of those opportunities, recording a hit in eight of them. With Whiles graduated, and a strong summer in American Legion baseball, Grizzle came into this season ready to be an offensive threat.
“We knew he could hit last summer, he just took and swung the bat really well for us,” said Rasmussen. “Coming into this year, we knew he was a middle of the order guy for us. It’s not a surprise to us at all. His mechanics are sound, he’s got good bat speed and he tracks the ball well. He stays inside the ball. Those are all characteristics that lead to being successful at the plate.”
For Grizzle, getting to show what he can do at the plate was just as big as having a successful year on the mound. Batting third in the Mountain View lineup, he gets the chance to set the pace in the first inning of every game.
“I do like being in the top of the order,” said Grizzle. “Usually, the first two guys get on and I have the ability to drive them in.”
Grizzle did exactly just that in the first inning of the Mavericks’ 6-0 District III title clinching win against Rocky Mountain last week. After Logan Burrell drew a walk to open the game, then stole second, Grizzle drove him in to put Mountain View on the board.
The night before, it was his arm that helped the Mavericks. Getting the start for the first game of the District III championship series, Grizzle struck out 11 while allowing four hits in a 1-0 win against the Grizzlies.
“Before the game, I was thinking ‘we have to win this game, we have to win the first one to build momentum for the second game,’” Grizzle said. “I just knew I needed a first inning to set the tone and we scored in the first inning so I was like ‘Ok, we’re going to score more in the game.’ But when it got to the fourth, I knew I had to do my job and put up zeros.”
That’s what Rasmussen was hoping Grizzle could do when he pulled the then-freshman up to the varsity level 14 months ago. Add in everything else he can do for the team, and the coach is thrilled to have him playing for him both in the state tournament, and beyond.
“For a sophomore kid, he’s one of the most complete players in the league,” Rasmussen said. “He’s definitely been our No. 1 (pitcher) this year and he hits three for us. Being a guy that can contribute at the plate and on the field, it’s nice to be able to know Will Grizzle is going to be contributing on the mound or in the lineup, if not both.”