Column: Grace Luderer, the tall redhead in the pitcher's circle, makes grandfather proud

·4 min read
Woodland Hills Louisville softball standout Grace Luderer smiles during a signing day ceremony for Seattle University.
Seattle University-bound Grace Luderer has 53 strikeouts in 30 innings, an 0.48 ERA and 4-0 record for Woodland Hills Louisville High this season. (Ashley Luderer )

When star softball pitcher Grace Luderer of Woodland Hills Louisville High was asked by her father, Matt, to throw him a pitch so he could whack the exploding ball to find out whether it would produce pink or blue smoke at a gender reveal party, things didn’t go as planned.

“I swung and missed,” said Matt, the athletic director at St. Francis in La Cañada Flintridge.

Said Grace: “He likes to say the first two pitches were too inside.”

Matt finally struck the ball, producing pink smoke.

“Nobody was surprised,” Grace said. “We already had five girls. We all saw it coming.”

Blakely, her half sister, became grandchild No. 38 for the Luderer/Scully family, and Grace will be excited to train her in the ways of softball. Grace’s mother, Catherine, is the daughter of Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully. Grace is the only redhead among the 23 granddaughters, which gives her special kinship to the legendary redhead broadcaster.

Matt Luderer hits a ball pitched by daughter Grace to reveal the identity of the next baby in the family.
Matt Luderer hits a ball pitched by daughter Grace to reveal the identity of the next baby in the family. (Jackie Luderer)

It helped in her choosing Seattle as her college choice.

“Clearly I don’t get very tanned,” she said. “The sun is not my friend. I either get burned or more freckles. I love the snow. I like the idea of going somewhere that’s colder.”

This season, she has 53 strikeouts in 30 innings, an 0.48 ERA and 5-0 record. She’s also hitting .375. In 2019, she was the Southern Section divisional player of the year while going 9-0 and helping her team win the Division 5 championship.

At 5 feet 10, she looks a little menacing in the pitching circle.

“I’ve been told that,” she said. “I’ve never felt very tall unless I’m standing next to somebody who is short. I feel powerful [pitching]. Sometimes if I’m really into a game, I’ll stare at the batter’s eyes and give myself confidence. I try to talk myself up to remind myself I can do it.”

With two older sisters who played softball and uncles who were baseball players, Grace was advanced when she started playing T-ball.

“I used to get frustrated for some reason when I was little,” she said. “I would run all over the field to make sure we got the ball. My dad said I’d walk around the super market and practice doing my pitching motion.”

She received plenty of pitching lessons growing up, has played in many club softball tournaments and received lots of experiences.

There was the time she was playing in Arizona and the temperature was well past 100 degrees. “There’s one girl whose cleats melted,” she said.

Then there’s the individual battle with pitcher Jessie Fontes, now at Arizona.

“When I was 10, I faced her in a national championship game,” Grace said. “I didn’t get the opportunity to pitch.”

Her team lost. Fast forward to 2019. It’s the Division 5 semifinals. Fontes is pitching for Simi Valley Grace Brethren. Luderer gets the call for Louisville.

“When I knew we were playing, I told myself in the mirror three days straight, ‘You can do it. You’re going to beat her this time.’ I kept telling myself, ‘You can do it.’ I fought so hard. I wanted to win so bad.”

Louisville won 1-0 as Luderer hit a home run.

Perhaps no time was more stressful for Luderer than the 2020-21 sports shutdown because of the coronavirus. She had not made a college choice and was worried it would affect her recruiting.

“I was sad I didn’t get to see my friends at school for an entire year,” she said. “It was a struggle at the beginning. I didn’t want all my dreams and hopes playing in college to fade away. I had to find motivation in myself. I constantly went on runs and lifted at home detergent bottles and water jugs and pitched all the time with my dad in the backyard. I continued to push myself because there wasn’t much to do unless I forced myself to get up and work out.”

Luderer has proved her ability on and off the softball diamond and appreciates the love everyone has for her grandfather.

"It can be a little overwhelming sometimes because some people will only associate him with me," she said. "I love him. He's a huge face with the Dodgers and baseball. I do love being his granddaughter."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.