It's no coincidence, according to University of Toledo baseball coach Cory Mee, that shortly after inserting sophomore Tyler Grogg into the starting lineup in late March, the Rockets went on an 11-game winning streak.
Grogg, a Springfield graduate, has been the starting left fielder and No. 2 hitter for UT ever since, and he's made his coach look good by performing in the field and at the plate for the 23-20 Rockets.
Grogg is batting .247 with nine RBIs and has a .354 on-base percentage and six stolen bases in 26 games, including 21 starts. He also has yet to make an error in any of those contests.
"I was just hoping I'd get some playing time this year," Grogg said. "I've been working really hard, and I really want to help us get our first [Mid-American Conference] championship."
Grogg did not see any game action in his freshman season last year, but he made the most of his time on the bench.
"I don't think anybody on our team would argue with the fact that he's our most improved player from last year to this year," Mee said. "He's someone a year ago that recognized the things he needed to improve upon, and he really worked hard."
Grogg admits it wasn't easy taking a year off from baseball, but to keep himself occupied while his teammates were away on road trips, Grogg would go back and visit his high school coaches and work with them on refining his abilities.
"It was tough sitting out, but I didn't let it get to me," Grogg said. "I just continued to work hard. I did long-toss, ran sprints and worked on my hitting every day, because I didn't want to lose my swing since I wasn't playing."
Grogg said his determination to improve and get better comes from an eagerness to taste a championship for the first time in his career.
"Really, I've always been about winning," Grogg said. "At Springfield, we never won a [Northern Lakes League title] either. I always wanted to be the first to do it, and it's the same way for me here. I really want to win [UT's] first MAC [baseball] title in the four years I'm here."
The addition of Grogg into the lineup gives the Rockets a much better chance to do just that.
"He's really provided a big spark for us," Mee said. "He's played great defense in left field and provided an element in the batting order we didn't have with his speed and his ability to bunt and steal bases.
"Tyler's certainly had a lot to do with the reason why we've been able to turn it around and playing well as a team now."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.