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updated: 3/31/2014 11:03 PM

Rolling right along, Elk Grove's Grams gets win No. 800

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  • Elk Grove coach Ken Grams is surrounded by players commemorating his 800th career softball coaching victory with special T-shirts after an 18-2, 6-inning triumph over host Fenton on Monday.

      Elk Grove coach Ken Grams is surrounded by players commemorating his 800th career softball coaching victory with special T-shirts after an 18-2, 6-inning triumph over host Fenton on Monday.
    Bob Murphy photo

 
 

No more than 50 yards behind the backstop of Fenton's softball field, Metra trains were quickly zipping by late Monday afternoon.

Almost like the 34 seasons for Elk Grove softball coach Ken Grams, who was playing the host Bison in Bensenville.

"I don't remember the details but I still remember the score of my first game in 1981," Grams said. "We went to West Chicago and won 2-1."

Everyone on hand Monday will remember Grams' most recent win.

It was a milestone victory that only one other softball coach in state history has reached.

Grams won his 800th game softball on Monday as the Grens raced past Fenton 18-2 in six innings in the nonconference game.

The only coach in Illinois with more wins is St. Joseph-Ogden's Randy Wolken, who entered this season with a record of 889-212.

Wolken and Grams were inducted in the Illinois Softball Association Hall of Fame in 2004.

The Grenadiers' legendary coach, who has also announced every football game in the school's history and has served as the school's boys basketball coach, is always the first to tell anyone it's all about his players.

One of those, senior shortstop Becca Maher, had a game to remember in her coach's historic win.

Maher went 5-for-6 with 3 doubles and 3 RBI. Two of her doubles were crushed to left field and there's a good chance they would have been her second and third homers of the season had the field had an outfield fence.

"It's pretty cool to be part of history like this," said Maher, one of the top hitters in the state. "Especially for us seniors to go out like this.

"The way Mr. Grams coaches is unlike any coach I've had. He's calm, and he knows how to make everyone else calm. He puts us in the right frame of mind before the game."

Senior Megan Eul (2-0) recorded the win in the historic game attended by Elk Grove principal Paul Kelly and assistant principal/student activities Bob Murphy.

"It feel really good to get the win for this game," Eul said. "He (Grams) knows what he is talking about and he has us working hard. That's what it takes."

Gina Cirrincione worked hard behind the plate, catching Eul for 4 innings and freshman Taylor Leach for the final 2. The senior receiver caught a runner stealing for Fenton's first out of the game.

"He (Grams) just loves his team so much and each and every girl on it," Cirrincione said. "He cares not only about softball but that everyone one of us gets better as individuals and that we get better as a team."

Grams is hardly a stranger to the Fenton field where he has played his share of regional games but he is even more familiar with the Bison coach. Dave Mello was a former student of Grams'. The 1989 Elk Grove graduate brought the Bison into the game with a 4-0 record.

"He (Grams) was my accounting teacher," said Mello, who also participated in Grams' youth basketball camps in the early 1980s. "I knew in high school that he would be around coaching for a while because he did such a great job. So when I got into coaching I knew I'd go against him -- but of course, not for his 800th win. What an incredible accomplishment."

The milestone brought out past alumni over the weekend along with Grams' daughter Laurie (who was in the same class with Mello at Elk Grove), his grandson Wilson and son-in-law Robert.

"Nobody deserves this more," said Carol Stomponato, a catcher for Grams in 1985. "This man is so special. Oh my God, he is so dedicated. Everybody loves him. He has a heart of gold."

Carolyn Unglaub Duffy has the rare opportunity to have played for Grams and now see her daughter, Aleece, play for him.

"He has inspired so many players over the all the years," said Unglaub-Duffy, a 1986 graduate who starred on the pitcher's mound. "What a gift he has been to the organization. He deserves this in every way."

"It is nice to see he is still coaching and passing along his wisdom to the kids. His passion for the game is just amazing."

The amazing run of Grams was captured on T-shirts that Lynn Cirrincione, president of the Elk Grove Athletic Booster Club, had arranged to hand out after the big win.

They read "GramsNation" as a salute to everyone who came through the program in 34 years.

"It doesn't feel like that many," Grams said. "That's because kids like these will keep you fresh."

And the 'kids' had some fresh bats Monday, collecting 17 hits.

Second baseman Aleece Duffy had three of them while Shannon Taucher, Sarah Pauscher and Cirrincione each had 2. Marjorie Sloan drew 3 walks and scored three times while Allie Peters, Eul and Abbey Sloan each had a hit. Alex Masnica doubled.

Fenton leadoff batter Hannah Wassman was 3-for-3 with a RBI triple.

"We're young," said Mello, who started two freshmen, two seniors, four sophomores and one junior. "No knock against our earlier competition this season, but going against Elk Grove was a huge step up. But it's something we needed.

"It's no shame being victim No. 800. Obviously, there have been 799 others. Losing to a guy (Grams) like him and program like Elk Grove is no shame. I just wish we could have put up a better fight."

Grams is hardly surprised Mello became part of his coaching fraternity.

"He's a good person and I've known him for more than 20 years," Grams said. "He always liked sports and we always talked about them so I'm not surprised he is doing this."

And with the passion he still possesses, no one is surprised Grams is still in the business 34 years after that win over West Chicago.

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