Penn’s Ben Gregory to build Northern Indiana Conference MVP season
MISHAWAKA — One of the Ben GregoryHis senior baseball season goals at Penn were to throw a pitch.
Gregory, last year’s Northern Indiana Conference MVP, hasn’t pitched since July. During the summer ball, he felt pain in his right elbow. It began to swell to the point that he could no longer bend or move it, which resulted in internal splint surgery (a Tommy John-type procedure) on September 7. After right elbow pain led to surgery.
Gregory hasn’t been completely absent since the start of Penn’s 2022 season. In a win over Northridge and a loss to Carroll, he played at first base and hit out at fifth. But this week, he is expected to make his debut on the mound.
“I’m very excited,” Gregory said. “It’s been a long time. The amount of emotion I’ll feel after that first pitch is going to be insane.”
Penn baseball coach Greg Dikos expects Gregory to count the pitches, throwing around 30-40 pitches as he works on his stamina. Still, the addition of Gregory to the pitching staff will be a welcome sight.
“When everything was working, he was throwing hitters off balance and he’s very hard to hit,” Dikos said. “When he’s on the mound, we can compete with anyone in the state.”
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In his first varsity season as a junior, Gregory was nearly untouchable for a team that finished 15-7, before retiring from Section 4A with an 8-5 loss to Elkhart. He finished with a 0.00 ERA in 31 1/3 innings in conference with a 5-0 record. He also got the job done at bat with a .367 batting average, good for third on the team.
Gregory’s “claim to fame” came in Penn’s regular season finale against New Prairie. The winner finished atop the Northern Indiana Conference standings, and Gregory hit the hit.
“At the end of the season, I was pretty much betting on my position (league MVP),” Gregory said. “It was a pretty amazing season and definitely one that I will remember.”
More so because of his rise to become the arm that Penn can’t live without.
When Gregory arrived at prom two years ago, he was a scrawny, 5-foot-8 kid with bigger aspirations of being an intermediate outfielder.
He missed his sophomore year due to COVID-19 and sprouted in the 6-foot-3 frame he now throws with.
When Dikos and Penn staff saw Gregory doing off-season workouts before last season, his stuff caught their eye.
“It was pretty obvious how good he was,” Dikos said. “I guess you could say he was an unexpected surprise.”
Last season’s figures confirmed this. So, as she approaches her second year of college, expectations should be raised. But Gregory’s operation gave him some leeway.
“At the moment there is no pressure,” Dikos said. “I expect him to improve with every game.”
In the meantime, Dikos is counting on his team’s deep but inexperienced pitching staff in juniors Brayden Schoetzow, Adam Lehmann and second Joseph Trenerry to handle the mound until Gregory returns.
That will be important in the busy week ahead for the Kingsmen when they were scheduled to play Carmel on Saturday April 9, followed by Riley on April 11 and a big game against Glenn, who scored 30 points in his first game. opener against Oregon-Davis, April 13.
“They’re going to be a pretty powerful double until I come back,” Gregory said. “I have nothing but faith in them. They’re going to come out and hustle every day.”
Gregory, who signed to play collegiately at Maryville University (St. Louis), said he plans to take on the role of team leader and be a mentor to these young pitchers.
He hopes this will lead the Kingsmen to an NIC championship and deep tournament.
“I think I bring experience to the team that these guys don’t have,” Gregory said. “For me to have the season that I had last year, I could give them the confidence that I’ve been there and I can also help them with all the problems that they have too.”