Photos courtesy of Monmouth University.
Kylie Gletow is like most college freshman athletes, full of trepidation, concerned how to fit in and hoping to provide the type of production that will keep her on the field.
Fifteen games into Monmouth University’s softball season, Gletow has resolved her own concerns with four victories and a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week honor.
“It’s been pretty good,” said Gletow. “I’m happy. The coaches are a big part of that. Coming in, our practices and everything was like it was with my club team, Finch’s Aces.”
Gletow has had good reason to be happy with her start, particularly the past week when she went 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA over 14 innings, striking out 10 and walking just two batters to earn the conference honor. The Hunterdon Central grad helped the Hawks to a 4-1 week that boosted the team’s record to 9-6.
Monmouth’s sixth-year coach Shannon Salsburg has had the Hawks churning under her direction. The Hawks have won the past two MAAC championships and, with a sturdy 2020 pitching staff, the team appears in position for another run at a conference championship and its accompanying berth in the NCAA regional tournament.
“Kylie has fit in nicely to our staff,” says Salsburg. “I have known her for many years due to the recruiting process and Kylie has always been a worker. She is constantly working at her craft, fine-tuning her mechanics and pitch placement. Her work ethic is a key ingredient that will serve her well throughout her career.”
Slotted in as the team’s No. 2 pitcher behind junior ace Alyssa Irons, Gletow has shown steady development from the season’s opening week. “As the weeks go on, I’ve improved,” Gletow said. “I’ve learned so much since the first week. We get back to campus after each weekend and just go to work.”
That work includes finding ways to stay a step ahead of college batters. “I made good adjustments this week and was able to adjust again after the batters adjusted to me.”
Gletow is already a different pitcher than she was in high school when, even in the rugged Skyland Conference, she could get away with relying on her fastball. The righthander has become a three-pitch pitcher in college with the fastball a secondary thought.
“I pretty much have just thrown my changeup, drop curve and screwball,” said Gletow. “They wanted to see more off-speed from me, moving the ball in and out. So, I’ve been focusing on those three pitches.”
But Gletow’s pitch selection is just part of the equation in her transformation from high school star to efficient college pitcher.
“I’m just a lot smarter,” says Gletow. “I used to pitch to the plate in high school. Now I’ve learned to pitch to the batter and make the batter swing at my pitches. I’m no longer pitching to the plate.”
She has also made an adjustment in her mechanics when throwing the changeup. “In the fall, our pitching coach had me rotate my hands early in my release.”
Irons is, indeed, Monmouth’s ace and she gets the big starts. So, Gletow is sure to be locked in when the upperclassman goes to work on opposing batters.
“Watching Alyssa helps me learn, too, because she’s so good,” says Gletow.
In her win over USC Upstate on Saturday, Gletow pitched her first collegiate complete game, a two-hit, 2-0 shutout against a team that came in with a 12-2 record.
“Kylie has grown a lot since September,” said Salsburg. ”We believed, coming in, she had the pitches to be effective. The key thing she continues to learn is placement of her pitches. At this level, where the pitch is matters way more than just about anything else.
“Having the chance to battle our lineup in practice has helped her with that understanding and now that she has three weekends under her belt, we are starting to see huge strides in this area.”
The gradual improvements in the circle are coupled with Gletow’s typical success in the classroom but she admits her college initiation wasn’t as easy as it may seem from the outside.
“It was really hard for me,” she said. “I was really homesick. My dad came every other week. The second semester has been a lot better. I started to meet more people and I have a group of friends. My teammates are really nice. I’m with them all the time. I’m more comfortable. I felt out of place the first semester.”
That comfort and happiness off the field is showing on the field where Gletow is 4-2 with a 2.87 ERA on the season. She has 22 strikeouts and 11 walks in 31.2 innings.
“I couldn’t be more excited to see Kylie’s succeed at the next level,” said Gletow’s Finch’s Aces coach Jackie Tarulli. “She’s worked so hard to get to this point and I know this is just the beginning for her. Shannon and her staff will undoubtedly bring her to the level she needs to be to compete on a national stage.” Tarulli knows what it takes having played four years herself at DePaul.
Gletow started all four years of high school at Hunterdon Central in Flemington, N.J., where she posted a 71-15 career record and a 1.63 ERA. She was 19-2 as a senior with a 1.62 ERA and 161 strikeouts. She also batted just under .400 in a well-rounded high school career.
The college softball lesson for Gletow has demanded yet another adjustment, how to study on the road. Northeast schools tend to spend much of the first month or so of the season on the road in the search for warmer climates. This requires quick weekend trips either by bus or plane.
“It’s a learning experience,” says Gletow. “You have to figure out how to get work done on the plane or on the bus. I have to fit it in when I can.”
Gletow and the Hawks hop a bus at 3 p.m. today (Thursday) to Washington, D.C. where they play five games this weekend. First up is a skirmish with Rider on Friday followed by doubleheaders on Saturday against Winthrop and Sunday against host George Washington.
“The obvious goal is to get to regionals,” says Gletow. But, meanwhile, she has more immediate concerns. “I’m still working on throwing to the batter not the plate and recognizing how the batter is in the box. I never really thought about it in high school.”
Gletow’s matured mental approach has melded with her physical skills to get her off to a quick start in her college career. Salsburg is certainly pleased at her freshman’s development.
“Division 1 softball is a huge jump for anyone,” says Salsburg, “so we simply deal in the present day, each day, with our players. Kylie has been so eager to learn and continues to grow. And she has so much potential for growth. Her strength as a college pitcher is simply her openness to being coached. She wants feedback immediately, which is a huge reason why her innings continue to improve.”