Warriors Athlete of Week: Versatility key to Christiansen's game
Elaina Christiansen is not normal.
In fact, Brainerd Warriors head softball coach Shane Jordan called her a freak.
And to prove the point he moved his third-year starting catcher to centerfield for a game and the freak nicknamed "Bootsie" didn't disappoint.
"It's never happened in the years that I have coached," said Jordan. "I think she's a freak athlete. She can play anywhere. The fact that you can play catcher and centerfield and be the fastest kid on our field is pretty darn amazing.
"I know she's a super good athlete, who can play anywhere. We have a freshman catcher who is pretty darn good, too, and I needed to get them both on the field."
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- Sport: Softball
- Position: catcher, centerfielder
- Year: Junior
- Age: 17
- Height: 5-foot-3
- Career highlight: Hitting two home runs in Moorhead Saturday in front of her grandmother
- Other sports: Hockey
- Favorite class: Chemistry
- Favorite food: Mac and Cheese
- Favorite movie: "The Emperor's New Groove"
- Favorite TV show: "13 Reasons Why"
- Favorite app: Snapchat
- Future plans: Play college softball
- Favorite athlete: Yadier Molina
- Parents: Marty and Teresa Christiansen
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The junior catcher enjoyed stretching her legs out in the wide open field. It wasn't her first time playing in the field nor will it be her last according to Jordan who also wanted to showcase Christiansen's crazy athletic skills to college coaches, too.
If that didn't entice the next level then maybe Christiansen's bat last week did. The No. 4 hitter in the Warriors lineup went 12-of-23 with five singles, three doubles, four home runs, 10 runs and 12 runs batted in. During that span, Brainerd finished 6-1.
"I think we are where we need to be," Christiansen said. "I think there is always that higher point that we can reach to. We can always do better. We've won, but there is always stuff to improve in practice. I just think even though we've been winning, we can still keep going higher and higher."
Jordan said Christiansen's game is getting better, but her's her handling of a pitching staff and Brainerd's defense that he's most pleased with.
"She has taken more of a leadership role verbally, more so than she has in the past," said Jordan. "She's willing to step up and help the other kids out when she sees something, whether it's with their swing or something defensively or honestly when she is catching and she is calling a timeout to go talk to everybody and get everyone calmed down and organized. Her leadership has been very good this year."
Christiansen is managing a pitching staff that features senior captain Jillian Ewald and sophomore Jordyn Sullivan. Combined those two own a combined ERA of 1.979 and 16-1 record.
"Both girls have worked so hard before the season that they know themselves," Christiansen said. "The only thing that I have to do is make sure that they stay confident with themselves. If they don't think they're doing well, it's my job to step in and tell them that they're doing fine we just need to tweak this one thing. I just try to get them back into the mindset that they're the best out there.
"They both carry themselves really well. With Jillian, she's the pitcher, no matter what she doesn't hear anything. She's just in her zone. But Jordyn, she will listen, but only to the positive things."
Another reason for Brainerd's success is Christiansen's bat. She's tied for the team lead with five home runs, but is batting .486 with a .600 on-base percentage and a .771 slugging percentage. In 55 at bats, she's collected 26 hits, nine doubles, 19 RBIs and 22 runs scored. She's been hit by a pitch four times and walked eight to just one strikeout.
"She's got a good eye at the plate so she sees strikes well and is able to find her pitch," Jordan said. "I really, truly think her attitude at the plate, if the pitcher makes a mistake, she is going to make them pay for it.
"She has the ability to hit the ball over the fence, but she also has the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. Just hit a single, which can turn into a triple because she'll steal second and steal third with her speed.
"Her approach at the plate is pretty versatile, whether she is going to be aggressive and hit the ball in the gap somewhere or just knowing she needs to get on base because we need somebody to score a run."
Christiansen was batting leadoff, but has moved to the No. 4 position behind Lexi Roby and in front of Kylie Lange. The lineup shift has given opposing pitchers a lot to fear.
"I guess it brings everyone else more comfortable and confident at the plate," said Christiansen. "When Lexi is up, I know that she'll get on so I have to ready. When she is on, I know that I have to bring her home because than Kylie (Lange), who is behind me, is going to bring me home. That's how I think and I've become more confident because I have girls who will succeed around me."
Success was Christiansen's No. 1 goal coming into the season. She wants to lead the team to state, steal more bases and become a better softball player and teammate.
Jordan believes she's got the know-how to do all four things.
"She has the best softball IQ I've ever seen," Jordan said. "She knows the game very well. She knows the softball swing very well and is able to teach it to other kids. She can explain it in ways that sometimes even us coaches can't do. Then defensively, she just sees things. She understands situations. She's able to get our girls organized and call out a play and make it happen and make the right play every time."