Softball: Regional huge moment for UL's Gremillion
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 18, 2017
Typically as low key and unemotional as a young standout athlete can be in 2017, UL sophomore third baseman Kara Gremillion didn't even try to deny it.
The NCAA Baton Rouge Softball Regionals at Tiger Park this weekend is a big deal for her family.
Gremillion grew up in the Baton Rouge area as a four-time All-State softball performer at St. Amant High.
"I have a big family," she said. "There's a lot of LSU fans and some UL fans. It's pretty split.
"I hope they'll all be wearing red this weekend to support me."
Indeed, like so many in South Louisiana, family is a big deal for Gremillion. There's her immediate relatives, her extended family and then there's her continually growing UL softball family.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Gremillion said. "There are going to be a little nerves, but mostly I'm just super excited. I'm going to have a lot of family there. To be playing where I grew up in front of a lot of people I know, I can't wait."
"To be able to represent my family is special."
Two of those family members are two aunts who just happen to be former Ragin' Cajuns — Stacie Gremillion (1984-87) and Sandy Percle (1983-86).
Gremillion also happens to have a freshman sister named Kourtney on this year's squad.
Of course, Gremillion and her sister will miss out on much of the festivities surrounding UL's participation in this weekend's NCAA regional. There's simply too much riding on the outcome to be distracted by good old family fun.
"Kara's mom coached her growing up," UL coach Michael Lotief said. "She had aunts who played here and uncles who are college coaches. She's been in that situation her entire life. She knows how to deal with the pressure."
Gremillion's cold-stare approach to the game has served her well so far in her collegiate career. As a true freshman, she surprised many by looking like a veteran, hitting .331 with 20 RBIs and a .480 on-base percentage.
This season, Lotief moved her to the lead-off spot. Initially, the results weren't apparent.
That might have been a huge mental obstacle for some players, but not this focused former three-sport high school superstar.
"I didn't feel like it was that tough of a transition," Gremillion said. "The biggest difference is that you're the first one to see the pitcher, instead of being one of the last ones. But really, whether you're hitting at the top or the bottom of the order, you're still trying to do that same thing: get on base.
"At first, I didn't have good results, but I felt like I was having good at-bats, so it didn't affect me too much. Everybody on the team helped me to feel more comfortable."
Eventually, it did happen. These days, Gremillion's got her batting average up to .318. She's got four homers and 31 RBIs and her on-base percentage is .468.
"Part of it (mental toughness) is from my family," she said. "That's just how I grew up. They've always helped me with that.
"Another big part of it is Coach Lotief. He always holds us accountable. He helps prepare us for those (pressure) situations."
One aspect of Gremillion's game, though, that rarely needs picking up is her defense at the hot corner.
"I love defense," she said. "I like hitting too, but I love playing defense. I love diving for balls. I love going all out for balls. l love fielding bunts on the run."
As a freshman last season, Gremillion amazingly only committed four errors. She has nine this season, but that isn't an obstacle for her either.
"It's not hard at all for me to move on after I make an error," she said. "When it happens, I don't harp on it too much, because I know that I'm going all out for it."
Gremillion's abilities on defense have always impressed Lotief.
"What she does on defense is phenomenal," he said. "In college softball, the toughest position is third base. That and catcher. There are more glamour positions, but at third, you have to deal with the slapper, the bunts, going in the hole, being so close to the batter. That kind of athlete is hard to find.
"The fans here are so accustomed to seeing her make those tough plays that people don't even realize how tough those plays really are."
NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL SCHEDULE