Emily Grimes hit her pitching stride as a sophomore at Pella Christian High School in the late 1980s. By her senior season, Grimes was in control from the circle on the softball diamond.
Grimes, who is now Emily Grimes-Rottinghaus of Johnston, was the Iowa Class 1A Player of the Year in 1990. Her career pitching record was 112-15 and she was a two-time first-team Class 1A all-state selection after leading the Pella Christian Eagles to two state tournament berths.
“I realized my sophomore year I enjoyed being on the mound and setting the tempo for the game for my team,” Rottinghaus said. “It (the mound) was one place in my life I was in control.”
The Newton native is one of four former Iowa high school standout players to be inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Softball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2013 will be inducted Friday in a ceremony before the start of the Class 2A championship game at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
Rottinghaus joins her former pitching student and fellow Jasper County native Libby Hysell-Carlton, who played for Colfax-Mingo High School in the 1990s. The two Central College standout pitchers go into the state high school softball hall of fame together with Spirit Lake’s Rachel Gerking and Southeast Webster-Grand’s Jennifer Jorgensen.
“It’s humbling to me to receive this honor. I loved to play the game of softball. And it’s even more special to go in with Libby. I wouldn’t want to go into the hall of fame with any one else. I gave her her first pitching lesson,” Rottinghaus said.
Growing up in Newton, Rottinghaus was coached by her father, Gary, as a young softball player and pitcher. She played for Newton Senior High School as an eighth-grader and a freshman before transferring to Pella Christian.
Rottinghaus played first base and second base in high school. She also hit throughout her high school career.
“I batted until my sophomore year at college then I just concentrated on pitching,” she said.
What focus Rottinghaus had as a standout pitcher for Central College in Pella.
At Central she was a four-time NCAA Division III tournament lparticipant and helped the Dutch capture national championships in 1991 and 1993, before placing fourth in Division III in 1994. Her 64-14 record gave her the highest career winning percentage (.820) in Central history.
A two-time first-team All-Iowa Conference and All-America honoree, Rottinghaus received league (1993) and team (1994) MVP honors and she served as team co-captain in 1994. She posted a remarkable 0.87 career earned run average with 363 strikeouts and 25 shutouts.
“To play at the college level takes an extreme amount of dedication to the sport. You have to be willing to give up a lot in your life and practice every day,” Rottinghaus said as she considered what to tell young people wanting to participate in sports. “Even at the high school level, there’s is a certain amount of time and effort you have to dedicate to the sport if you want to play well.”
Rottinghaus said today’s athletics are even more competitive than when she was playing. She said she had the support of her parents, Gary and Connie Grimes, throughout her career.
“They took me to every practice and gave me the encouragement I needed to push myself to be the best I could be. You have to truly love the game — be there physically and mentally for every pitch, every inning and every game,” Rottinghaus said. “You strive to be the best.”
Rottinghaus took that passion for the game of softball into her next phase of the sport — coaching. She started out by coaching young players like Carlton then after her playing days at Central were through she became an assistant coach at Central in 1995.
Rottinghaus was also the head coach at Pella Christian in 1995. She moved up to be head coach at Grand View University, 1996-98. Rottinghaus was an assistant at Drake University, 1998-99, and was Drake’s head coach from 2000 to 2003.
Rottinghaus was inducted into the Central athletics hall of honor last fall. Her father, Gary Grimes, is currently serving as Central’s pitching coach. She worked with the Central pitchers last winter.
Rottinghaus continues to serve as a volunteer youth coach and was volunteer coordinator with the Central Iowa Aquatic Swim Club. Rottinghaus and her husband, Jim, live in Johnston with their two sons. She is busy volunteering at both of her sons’ schools.
“We didn’t have a daughter so no softball pitchers,” she laughed. “We’ve moved around with my husband’s job and I’ve done some pitching lessons in different areas.”
Rottinghaus’ love for the game continues and she is always ready to pass on that passion and love for softball to the next young pitcher looking for help just like her student and fellow 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Libby Hysell-Carlton.