Pleasanton Weekly

Sports - March 21, 2014

Dons on the rise

Grauer leads Amador's softball senior girls on final title quest

by Dennis Miller

Life has a funny way of working out at times.

When Amador Valley High senior Johanna Grauer started playing softball in the first grade, she had dreams of being a catcher.

For two years she worked at the position and when she hit third grade, it was time to try out for the Pleasanton Phantom, a prestigious traveling program.

Despite her hard work, Grauer didn't make the team. About the same time that year, the College World Series softball tournament was on television, and it was watching those games that led Grauer to a change of position. No longer did she want to be a catcher, but rather a pitcher.

It was a change that altered her career, and life for that matter.

Now, as she starts her senior season at Amador, Grauer is among the elite players in the nation and led her senior-laden Amador team into the season as the No. 3-ranked team in the country.

"We are very excited to get going this year," said Grauer. "Our freshman year seems so long ago. We want to end it by leaving a mark this year."

Leaving the mark at Amador is a task Grauer and her teammates have rallied around over the course of the last four years. And it's something far different from the pressures of traveling club softball.

High school is much different than club, where teams travel all over the country. The talent level is different between the two as well, with club softball being the controlling influence for college recruiting. But high school softball offers something different -- it brings the pride aspect of your school into play.

"The biggest difference between the two is that in travel softball you play more for yourself," explained Grauer, who will play for UCLA in college. "But in high school you play for your team. The people around the school don't care what you do for your travel team, but they care so much about what you do for your school."

What Grauer has done for Amador the last three years is nothing short of amazing.

Through her first three seasons, Grauer has posted a 67-8 record in the circle. In her sophomore season, Grauer was 22-1 with a 0.33 ERA (earned run average), striking out 336 batters in just 172 innings pitched.

Last year, she had a 22-2 record and a microscopic 0.08 ERA.

Oh and she can hit as well, putting up a .321 average as a sophomore and .328 last year. Those totals have transferred into good things for the Amador program.

The Dons won the North Coast Section title in Grauer's freshman year, and they followed that up with an appearance in the title game her sophomore year. Last season the team lost in the first round of the playoffs, but it was a loss that is fueling this year's team.

"That loss to San Ramon lingers," Grauer said. "There are teams you consider rivals and that is a loss that still stings. We are not going to let that happen again this season."

It is exactly that type of attitude that makes Grauer a unique player. Coming down off club ball into high school has seen many a player coast a bit.

That's not the case with Grauer.

"I have never seen her take a shortcut," Amador coach Teresa Borchard said. "She has really raised the level of the game for Amador. Sure she has helped with the notoriety, but her work ethic is tremendous. She is a tremendous role model -- she has the respect of everyone that knows her."

And that includes the masses of college coaches.

It was the summer before her sophomore season when Grauer and her teammates jumped from playing in the 14-and-under nationals -- their age-proper division -- and up to the star-studded 18-and-under.

"It was the best division and it was something we thought we were ready for," said Grauer.

Indeed they were.

In a tournament with upwards of 70 teams, they battled to 17th place and drew looks from a lot of college coaches. It wasn't long after when Grauer committed to Arizona State -- a decision that seemed early, with three years of high school still to come.

"There was just so much pressure from college coaches," Grauer said. "Once I committed, it cooled down a lot."

But two years later the pressure was back as heading into her senior year of school, the coaches at Arizona State left and the college doors were back open. It wasn't long before the calls came pouring in, and this time Grauer made the decision to go to UCLA.

Last summer Grauer parlayed her ability and success into a wonderful opportunity. With her mother being born in Sweden, Grauer has dual-citizenship between the United States and Sweden.

After contacting the national softball program in Sweden, Grauer was granted a tryout for the team and was successful. Later in the summer, Grauer played in the European Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. She helped the team to a seventh-place finish -- the highest ever for Sweden.

"That was amazing," said Grauer, who pitched in all but one game. "It was one of the coolest things I have ever done."

World traveling aside, Grauer and her teammates have set their sights on a big senior year. Joined by fellow college-bound seniors Ashley Lotoszynski (UC Davis), Nicole Yozzo (Lehigh), Victoria Molina (Stanford) and Hannah Moreno (Colgate), the Dons are on a mission this year.

"We know that every team we play wants to beat us," Grauer said. "But I really hope my teammates and I will leave a legacy. As girls come through the school, I hope they realize that we were the ones that put Amador softball on the map."

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