Quiet. Calculated. Precise.
Try to find three better words to describe Andover senior Josh Gruenberg on the mound, and you’ll probably be nose-deep in a Merriam-Webster for quite a while.
When it’s his turn to toe the rubber for Andover High, his teammates know to keep their distance.
When he’s in his zone, nobody dare take him out of it.
“I don’t like to talk to people when I pitch,” said Gruenberg. “Every game, I just get in a zone and don’t focus on anything else.”
With the way things have been going, no one dares question his methods. Gruenberg’s “zone” has been Andover’s safe-haven this spring.
Heading into the week, the senior lefty has accounted for eight of the Warriors’ 11 wins this spring (11-9), boasting a perfect 8-0 record to go along with a gaudy 0.54 ERA. There was one no-decision, but that came all the way back during the first game of the season against St. Peter-Marian.
Gruenberg’s last seven starts have all been wins — plus a win in relief.
There’s a reason Andover is one of the most confident teams in the Merrimack Valley whenever Gruenberg has the ball.
“Every time he gets the ball we’re a different team,” said Andover coach Dan Grams. “We just play better with him on the mound.”
Okay, well that’s the quiet and calculated aspect of Gruenberg, but what makes him so precise?
Gruenberg’s last seven starts have all been complete-game wins, which includes a five-inning no-hitter against Central Catholic.
After allowing three earned runs against St. Peter-Marian in that opening-day start, he’s allowed just one over his last 48.0 innings pitched. Three of his complete-games have been shutouts, and against Tewksbury he went the distance in just 68 pitches.
There were also four-hitters against Tewksbury, Haverhill and his second game against Central Catholic, and when he pitched against Dracut, the Middies only got three hits.
“He’s been fantastic for the whole season,” said Grams. “That first game I took him out early because I knew we were going to rely on him all year and I didn’t want to burn him out so soon, but that hasn’t mattered. He’s been very economical with his pitch count all year.
“He’s been dominant.”
KEEPING THE FAITH
Gruenberg is clearly having the best season of his high school career, but it’s certainly not isolated.
He’s made All-MVC the past two years — and will receive his third nod shortly — and starred as a sophomore when he had a 6-1 record and a 1.23 ERA. His junior year on the mound, he had a 5-1 record with a 1.33 ERA.
Heck, according to Grams, Gruenberg is the first player in Andover history to pick up a win on the mound in each of his four years.
But, when it came to the college recruiting process, things have been cold.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound lefty never received the college interest he was expecting, which led to frustration. His “short” stature for a pitcher may have played a role, as well as his struggles at the plate — particularly in his junior year.
“Last summer was a big recruiting time and I was really struggling,” said Gruenberg. “So I really didn’t have much interest from schools. I mostly just ended up applying to schools I wanted to go to.”
All was quiet on the Division 1 front, and there were sporadic offers at both the Division 2 and 3 level that weren’t too enticing.
But Gruenberg is not one to give up.
“A lot of people I work with really support me,” said Gruenberg. “They all believed in me. A lot of my confidence has come from them helping me.”
Sure, the whole recruiting process left a sour taste, but all Gruenberg did was work harder to get even better.
And he did.
Besides his pitching prowess this spring, he’s also hitting .368 (21 for 57) out of the leadoff spot with a team-high 21 runs scored. And he’s also thrown out two runners from the outfield on days he’s not on the mound.
“He’s just infectious with his work ethic,” said Grams. “I’ve been fortunate to have excellent leaders over the years, and he’s one of them.”
He’s continued to put in the work, continued to improve and most importantly he’s showing the college baseball world what he can do.
“I definitely think I’m showing who I am as a pitcher and a hitter this year,” said Gruenberg. “So yeah, I guess you could say I’ve had a ‘prove them wrong’ mentality.”
Gruenberg will be attending UMass Amherst, where he hopes to walk-on to the baseball team.
A lofty goal indeed. But with his drive, it’d be foolish to count him out.
So lets add one more to the list of words that describe Gruenberg on the mound: Perseverance.