It will be interesting to see what Olivia Tautges does for an encore.
In the Brainerd Warriors' season-opening softball victory over St. Cloud Tech Tuesday, April 9, the freshman finished 4-for-4 with two singles, two doubles and five RBIs.
She also pitched the final three innings helping Brainerd secure a 9-3 Central Lakes Conference victory. She allowed two runs on five hits and one walk. She struck out two.
"My confidence was really high up just because I put a lot of extra time in," Tautges said. "I've been working on my swing a lot. I'm almost at 100 percent for my swing right now. I'm just being really aggressive right now."
Warriors head coach Shane Jordan has Tautges batting sixth in the lineup. He said last year she was very aggressive at the plate. This year she is recognizing what her strike zone is and looking for pitches to hit in that area.
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- Sport: Softball
- Position: First base and pitcher
- Year: Freshman
- Age: 15
- Height: 5-11
- Career highlight: Playing in the Section 8-4A Final at Buffalo
- Other sports: Soccer, basketball
- Grade-point average: 3.5
- Favorite class: Math
- Favorite food: Grilled cheese
- Favorite movie: "Star Wars"
- Favorite TV show: "Riverdale"
- Favorite website or app: YouTube
- Favorite restaurant: Culver's
- Future plans: Having an active lifestyle
- Favorite athlete: Florida Gators pitcher Kelly Barnhill
- Parents: Bob and Peggy Tautges
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"I usually like low, outside pitches just because, well, I don't know, it's just where I hit the best," Tautges said. "We're working on getting to the high pitches because I really struggle with that. We're working on keeping my hands up higher and keeping my elbow up."
Jordan said Tautges takes a businesslike approach with everything she does. It's one reason he was able to bring her up to the varsity level as an eighth-grader.
"She's very businesslike," Jordan said. "I definitely think she enjoys the game and likes to have fun because I see her smiling all the time, but when she gets in the circle, or the batters box or even when she's on defense it doesn't matter if it's practice or a game, she is focused and ready to go. That just shows that she really cares about her team and about her personal performance and it shows maturity. I think she's mature beyond her grade. I know she's only a ninth grader, but sometimes I think she's a junior because she's been here. She knows what to do. She leads through her actions as a ninth grader and that's pretty cool to have."
In 23 games last season, Tautges collected 14 hits, three doubles, a home run, eight RBIs and nine runs scored. She finished with a .259 batting average, a 2.59 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging percentage.
"I know she had a really good summer playing with some of the girls that she's playing with now," Jordan said. "I think, the best thing that happened to Olivia is that she played some varsity soccer and she played varsity basketball. That has helped her really to mature. I know coach (Grant) Gmeinder and coach (Troy) Nelson are really great coaches, but they also teach about all of those things outside of the game. And that has helped her become a student of the game and more mature that way."
Jordan believes it's Tautges' work on the soccer field and basketball court that makes her a valuable first baseman, too. He called her a vacuum on the corner.
"She's got a great glove over there," Jordan said. "She scoops anything and everything. She gives our team a lot of confidence. Our infielders can throw it over there and she'll go get it. It helps that she's 5-11 and looks like she has a 9-foot wingspan over there. She's got good feet, too. I'll attribute that to playing other sports. She has good feet so she moves well over there."
Last season, she pitched 19 innings over six games, including three starts. She allowed 21 runs, 10 earned, on 21 hits and 16 walks. She struck out 18 and finished with a 3.684 ERA.
"I practiced a lot on my speed and different pitches," Tautges said. "I'm working on a two seam, which makes the ball curve, drop and all of that. You don't really know what's coming. I'm working on my location more because before I wasn't really working on it. I'm just working on all of that stuff."
Along with the heat, Tautges also throws a change up and she's working on a rise ball, but she hasn't thrown it in a game yet.
"She has a nice change-up," Jordan said. "It definitely changes speeds. I would like it, actually, to be a little faster. There is a pretty big gap in her fast ball and her rise ball and her change-up. It's just slow enough and it's accurate enough that it throws people off. Then of course the next pitch after a change-up looks like it's going twice as fast. She does have a very good change-up."
Tautges said she spent the majority of the summer working on her hitting. She said she started last season on fire, but got nervous as the season progressed. She worked on her confidence at the plate. But having played varsity soccer and basketball this season also helped with her comfort level on the team.
"Just knowing my teammates have my back this year," She said. "Last year, I was a lot younger than everyone so it was hard. This year I know they are supporting me and they are working to get to know me."
Other notable performances
• Emma Korhonen, softball, finished 3-4 with a double and two runs scored against St. Cloud Tech.
• Jordyn Sullivan, softball, finished 3-4 with a double, RBI and three runs scored and also pitched the victory against St. Cloud Tech.
• Kasia Kroll, softball, finished, 3-4 with a run against St. Cloud Tech.