Gielczyk: Benzie Central’s Warsecke Keeps Softball Career Alive at Jackson College
But as she entered the final month of her senior season with the Benzie Central Huskies, no college coaches had called or emailed with any offers for her to join their programs.
She’d begun making plans to join the United States Coast Guard, after briefly contemplating signing up with the Army, and had slowly shoved the notion of playing softball in college back into the deeper recesses of her mind.
It was heart wrenching for Warsecke, who began playing softball when she was about five years old. She grew to love the game, and the thought of not being able to play it any more was hard to accept. Maybe she could play it in a recreational league, but it wouldn’t be the same.
But things changed. Really fast.
“He said he thought she’d be a good fit, and he sent along some video,” Vanderburgh said when reached by phone at her office. “So, I watched some video that she had posted.
“I actually have some family up in the area, and one of my cousins gives lessons up there, so I reached out to her.
My assistant coach, he coached high school for 30 years so he knew some coaches from the area and so he reached out to some coaches he knew.
“We like to do a little bit of a back round check on a student. Everybody had really positive things to say (about Warsecke), so I contacted her and we talked on the phone a little bit.”
Vanderburgh invited Warsecke down to the campus and put her through a workout so she could observe her skills live and up close.
She didn’t want to rely solely on what she’d seen in the videos. Once she got a look at Warsecke up close and personal, she was sold on her.
“She’s going to do well for us behind the plate, or even out in the outfield, or anywhere else that we put her. Really, what I look for is a student that is going to be coachable, and take direction, and just be a good kid to be around on the team. That’s what causes a team to mesh. I saw all those qualities in her, and we made her an offer.”
Warsecke committed to playing for Jackson, a two-year junior college, on May 20. Right now she’s signed up for general education studies, but says she might switch her major and go into dental hygiene.
She later was approached by the choir instructor who talked with Warsecke afterward expressing interest in her singing for a new group called the Jackson Singers.
“Going to the Coast Guard was my number one option for awhile, and then this came up,” Warsecke said. “I was like, I would really like to play a little longer if I can and see what happens from there.
“I talked with an Army recruiter, and my dad said to me ‘Why don’t you give the Coast Guard a look.’ So, I went and talked with him. It seemed really like a good fit for me.
“After coach V got in touch with me, I was like ‘Wow, that’s such a great opportunity.’ This is my only shot to keep going, and the Coast Guard will always be there if I still want to do that.”
Jackson is a small campus, which suits Warsecke just fine. She said wasn’t really interested in going to be a bigger college.
“Everyone down there was super nice and friendly,” Warsecke said. “I got to meet a couple of girls that were on the team. Just them talking about the atmosphere it really seemed like something I would fit into really well.
Warsecke says she’s been playing softball since she was about five years old, and catching just felt like it was where she belonged once she was put behind the dish. She said she likes being involved on every play.
But she has played almost every other position except pitching during her time with the Huskies. She says it doesn’t matter where Vanderburgh puts her in the field, she just wants to play.
“The last couple of years, every time I wasn’t catching coach (Brautigam) threw me out in centerfield,” Warsecke said. “Which I really enjoyed, too. I like the outfield a lot. “I really like to move, so when balls are hit, I don’t like to be in the same spot. It’s really neat to be able to chase balls down, that type of thing, and make cool plays.”
Warsecke’s arm strength impressed Vanderburgh in the video, as was her ability to block the plate was good and solid.
Naturally, there are some things the Jets’ coaching staff will work on, as they would with any freshman joining the team.
“I think what really caught my attention was just how much she responded to me asking her to do different things,” Vanderburgh said. “Because then I know she’s coachable, and I need to teach her something, I know she’s going to respond to it.
“But, she had a really good arm and that is, I think, the harder thing to work on is arm strength. Her quickness is good. She’s got a good pop time. I liked all of those. Just in general, my recruiting philosophy is to recruit student athletes that have talent, have a high character and are hard workers, both in and out of the classroom.”
Jackson plays a lot of games, so Vanderburgh likes to bring in at least two catchers.
The coach wants her catchers to be leaders, and be able to talk with the pitchers when the situation calls for it, getting them back on course if necessary.
Warsecke already has a good arm, and mechanics. Vanderburgh believes she has the ability to be the team’s defensive quarterback, too.
But, can she hit?
“Her coach had talked to me a little bit about hitting, and said she had done pretty well for him,” Vanderburgh said. “It was kind of funny, when she did her visit I could tell she had good mechanics.
“I think she was a little nervous, as all kids are. Their timing is a little off, because they are a little jittery and excited. But, her swing was smooth and she had good mechanics.
“Now-a-days, we tend to over-coach hitting. Everybody wants to have a hitting instructor, and everybody wants to do things this way or that way. Sometimes when you have somebody that just has raw talent, and their swing is smooth, you know they are going to be able to make those adjustments that are needed.”
Vanderburgh added that Warsecke possessed the key concepts at the plate that are hard to change, and the coaches can work with her on the little things that need to be tweaked.
Jackson finished last year with a 37-15 record, eclipsing the old record for wins in a single season which the Jets had set in 2018.
The last two years, Jackson — a two-year junior college — has competed in the regional tournament. Two years ago, the Jets were one win away from advancing to the nationals, losing in the regional final. Last year, they lost in the regional semifinal in an 11-inning game.
Vanderburgh is counting on players like Warsecke to help the Jets continue to elevate the bar.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.