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Warriors Athlete of Week: Warriors' Tautges enjoys perfection in her first start

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Emma Tautges sends a pitch toward home plate Tuesday, April 16, on her way to pitching a perfect game against Fergus Falls in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch / Steve Kohls2 / 2

Emma Tautges

Sport: Softball

Position: Pitcher

Year: Freshman

Age: 15

Height: 5-foot- 8 1/2

Career highlight: Finishing third in the A bracket of the state tournament last summer

Other sports: Basketball, soccer

Grade-point average: 3.7

Favorite class: Yearbook

Favorite food: Sbarro's pizza

Favorite movie: "Maze Runner: The Death Cure"

Favorite TV show: "Teen Wolf"

Favorite website or app: Instagram

Favorite restaurant: Northwind Grille

Future plans: Attend college

Favorite athlete: Jennie Finch

Parents: Bob and Peggy Tautges

For one afternoon, Emma Tautges can brag to all her friends that she was perfect.

But then her friends and teammates helped her accomplish perfection.

The freshman pitcher for the Brainerd Warriors softball team needed just 82 pitches to record 18 outs in a 10-0 six-inning Central Lakes Conference perfect game over the Fergus Falls Otters Tuesday, April 16.

Of those 82 pitches, 58 went for strikes. She threw a first-pitch strike to 15 of the 18 batters and struck out 11 of them.

"I was nervous, but I felt like I could do really well," Tautges said. "I just had to remember to throw a fast arm and step out wider because I was struggling a little bit with my changeups, but now I'm starting to get much better.

"The coach would give me signs of what they thought would happen and I would pitch it right exactly there. (Fergus) couldn't put a bat on it."

With 11 strikeouts, that left seven outs for her defense to take care of. In Tautges' words they were amazing.

"There was one play between the first base and the second baseman," Tautges said. "The first baseman dove for the ball and then the second baseman got the ball and threw it to first base. It was a really good play.

"There was one line drive to Clare Ceynowa at third base that also saved me and then a pop up to left field that Jenna Meyer caught."

Warrior head coach Shane Jordan said Tautges' strength is hitting her spots and then keeping hitters off balance with a changeup. He called Tautges' changeup "devastating" and said it's what makes her a strikeout pitcher.

"Her strength is hitting her spots and that's always been her strength," Jordan said. "If we hold a glove up in a spot. She hits the glove. We knew if she could hit her spots with her fastball, that if she could get her changeup even close to the plate to keep them off balance that she would have a really good day.

"Her first two changeups she missed low and then she missed high and I thought that was perfect because she adjusted. Then all of the sudden she was money from then on."

It's the first perfect game for the Warriors since former University of Minnesota pitcher Nikki Anderson shutdown Sauk Rapids for a 10-0 win May 14, 2012.

What makes Tautges' performance more remarkable is the fact it was her first appearance in the circle for the Warriors this year and just her second varsity outing of her career.

"I knew what was happening," Tautges said. "I was getting a lot more nervous as each inning went by. It helped that I had a lot of practice and a lot of experience in games before that game.

"It hit me right away because Kailey Springer pushed her way toward me and said 'Oh Yeah. You did it.' Then I got really excited. I was just happy to get my second full varsity game under my belt. After that game, I feel very confident."

Tautges didn't suffer and effects of throwing a perfect game. In her next outing Tuesday, April 23, She threw 87 pitches and allowed just two hits and one walk for a 1-0 complete game over Moorhead. She struckout 10 Spuds batters.

Last year, Tautges started one game and threw a seven-inning three-hit shutout of St. Cloud Apollo May 17. She struck out 11 batters in that game.

"I was excited to see what a little bit of better competition would do for her," Jordan said. "She works really hard. She throws a lot in the winter. She plays a lot in the summer and I just wondered if she would pitch as well against high competition as she has in other times.

"The fact that she is only a freshman is really exciting. It shows maturity for sure and it shows that she does relish a little bit of competition and a little bit of pressure. For us to have a freshman who relishes those things, I'm super excited about that."

Being a freshman in a stacked program has limited Tautges' plate appearances, but Jordan likes what he sees when she hits the batter's box. When she's not pitching, Tautges will play the outfield.

But Tautges' strength right now is in the circle and with Abby Pelowski and Olivia Tautges throwing smoke already and Jordyn Sullivan a proven commodity from last season, Brainerd's pitching depth could be scary for opponents.

Through Brainerd's first five games, the pitching staff has allowed six earned runs on 20 hits and 12 walks. Warrior pitchers have struck out 41 batters and own a 1.135 ERA.

"It's super fun to have so many arms and have the ability to mix and match because all of our pitchers throw a different ball," Jordan said. "If we need to throw a couple or even three different pitchers in a game, we can do that and they all complement each other well. It's going to serve us well in the next two weeks when we're scheduled for 12 games in the next 14 days."

Other notable performances

• Ethan Hebert, track and field, broke the school record in the pole vault at the Sartell Invite.

• Zach Henke, track and field, won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the Sartell Invite.

• Sam Miller, baseball, struck out seven and didn't allow a hit in five innings of work against Fergus Falls.

Jeremy Millsop

My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.

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