Versatile Gryseels enjoying breakout senior season

Turner Gryseels (#6) heads for third against the Burnet Bulldogs. Gryseels and the Panthers have won nine games in a row, outscoring their opponents by a total of 122-36 on the season. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Turner Gryseels (#6) heads for third against the Burnet Bulldogs. Gryseels and the Panthers have won nine games in a row, outscoring their opponents by a total of 122-36 on the season. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Mike Schoeffel

When asked about the most important life lesson he’s learned on the diamond, Turner Gryseels responded with a quote from one of baseball’s greatest.

“Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half is physical,” said Gryseels, paraphrasing New York Yankees’ legend Yogi Berra. “Baseball has taught me how to overcome adversity in life. It has helped me deal with the mental side of life.”

Gryseels, a senior on the Liberty Hill varsity baseball team, may not be on Berra’s level in terms of on-field accomplishments – but then again, he might not be that far off. Gryseels, after all, is more versatile.

In his final season with Liberty Hill, Gryseels is turning in a campaign to remember. He’s split time between right field and the pitcher’s mound, finding equally impressive results in both positions.

As a pitcher, he’s thrown 18 innings through 19 games, compiling a 1.92 ERA and striking out 17 batters. At the plate, he’s hitting a head-turning .489 with 18 RBIs, a .609 OBP, and 15 steals.

Not bad for a kid – well, 18-year old – who’s only been playing baseball since the age of 11. That’s five, sometimes six, years after many kids first take to the diamond for the first time.

Gryseels is doing everything he can to ensure that his seventh full season in stirrups and a ball cap is his most memorable to date. He’s already enjoyed one timeless moment: a walk-off hit against rival Taylor on March 13. Gryseels called it the “biggest memory I’ve had throughout my high school baseball career.”

There will be plenty more where that came from if Gryseels and the Panthers continue their current trajectory.

Liberty Hill is off to its hottest start in years, winning 17 of its first 19 games, including nine in a row. The scores from the last six games tell the story of a team that may have what it takes to compete for the Class 4A state title in 2017: 3-0, 11-2, 11-0, 13-6, 16-1, 6-0. In total, the Panthers have outscored their opponents 122-36.

The playoffs are still a couple weeks away, but Gryseels has been daydreaming about how it would feel to capture high school baseball’s ultimate prize.

“A state title under my belt would be one of the greatest feelings for me,” said Gryseels. “All the hard work I’ve put in every year I’ve been playing would end up being worth it.”

A state championship would be doubly sweet for Gryseels, considering he would get to share it with teammate Chandler Freeman, a sophomore who has committed to Division I Dallas Baptist. Gryseels has formed a strong bond with Freeman during their time at Liberty Hill, calling him “an amazing athlete and a great friend.”

“He’s taught me a lot this year,” said Gryseels. “I’m blessed to have him as a friend and a great teammate. He has shown me what hard work and dedication really is…he has helped my game get better and has made me a better person and also a better athlete.”

Gryseels, like Freeman, will be joining the college baseball ranks after high school. He has accepted an offer to pitch at Brookhaven College, a community college in Dallas that competes in NJCAA Division III. Gryseels says he’s dreamed of playing collegiately since he first stepped foot on the field seven years ago.

“Baseball will continue to be one of the biggest aspects of my life,” he said. “I am beyond blessed to have received an offer to play college baseball and couldn’t thank God more for this amazing opportunity.”

College baseball, while an exciting prospect, is still in the future for Gryseels. Right now, he’s focusing on the present. As he said, he wants to “do the best I can and be the best I can be as a teammate.”

What is the end goal of all this hard work and determination?

“So we can go a long way and be successful like we all wish to be,” he said.