College Softball: Gratz’s last season gets stripped

Central Lakes College pitcher and second baseman Jenna Gratz had her freshman season taken after COVID-19 canceled the spring season in NJCAA. Gratz starts basic training in June. Submitted Photo.

Jenna Gratz came to Central Lakes College to play softball one last season before heading to basic training.

The Raiders played eight games in Florida before COVID-19 canceled Gratz’s comeback season.

“I was sitting at my kitchen table when (head coach Ray Austin) texted me that,” Gratz said. “It was a punch in the gut because I haven’t played in two years competitiviely. And knowing what we could’ve done this season was definitely a heartbreaker.

“We kind of saw it coming for us down the road. We were hoping the NJCAA wouldn’t go down that same path, but we didn’t know how serious COVID-19 was at the time. Just for it to be taken away just like that it kind of made you realize that not everything is guaranteed.”

Gratz was a pitcher and second baseman for the Raiders. She batted .286 with eight hits, three doubles, one home run and five RBIs in eight games.


She pitched in two games and posted a 0-1 record with a 21.00 ERA in 6 1/3 innings.

Gratz is from Oregon, Wisconsin, and visited the campus of CLC in the early summer of 2019 with a friend.

She comes from a softball family background. Her dad was a softball coach for her youth teams and her brother is a JUCO softball coach in Iowa.

“My family has always been into sports,” Gratz said. “I have two brothers that are older than me so I was around high school and collegiate sports my whole life. Coming to Central Lakes, the reason I came was to play softball.”

She signed on for what she knew would be a one year thing because she enlisted in the Army and basic training started for her in June of 2020.

Along with playing softball, Gratz helped out on the football and basketball teams with the training staff.

“When I got there I knew working with the football team would be a good opportunity because I wanted to get into kinesiology or athletic training or something like that,” Gratz said. “So I saw an opportunity with the trainer and I definitely took advantage of it and was in the training room everyday working with the football team.”

On the field, she consistently asked for more batting practice and more ground balls during workouts.


“I always wanted to be out there on the field or in the gym,” Gratz said. “It’s funny because (Austin) would always have to tell me when to stop taking batting practice or grounders or something like that.”

Austin praised her work ethic.

“She was always the first there and the last one to leave,” Austin said. “She always wanted more ground balls and more swings and more time in her bullpen sessions. She’s just a gym rat. When she wasn't practicing she was in the weight room.”

Her maturity was another attribute that stood out to Austin because she was older than most of her teammates having taken a few years off of school.

“That maturity showed up right away,” Austin said. “You could tell she was all business right from day one. Even when she showed up in the summertime, she went down to look at the field and forgot her workout clothes. She wanted to have a workout that day and it was a good first impression. I knew I wanted her on the team.”

Coming from a coaching background, Austin loves Gratz’s softball IQ. Gratz impressed Austin with her knowledge before she came to CLC. He thinks coaching is in her future if she wants to do it.

“She would be a fantastic coach,” Austin said. “She sees little things in opponents and teammates and always knows what to do to get better.”

Gratz did express some interest in coaching once she completes basic training.


“When my contract is up with the Army, I am hoping to find a coaching job somewhere and hopefully coach softball,” Gratz said.

Going into the Army was something Gratz wanted to do since she could get an education with it as well.

“It’s time for me to do what I really want to do and that’s going to the Army,” Gratz said.

Gratz also said Central Lakes welcomed her with open arms during her brief time in the Brainerd lakes area.

“It was a little nerve wrecking,” Gratz said. “But really quickly, with the football team, and then branching off of that it became family. It was hard to leave suddenly.”

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