College Softball: Pitching depth could be key to Raider success

The Central Lakes College Raiders open their season Saturday, March 11, in Titusville, Florida.

Three softball players pose for a photo.
Returning players Marissa Callahan, Halle Zupan and Zakia Herron pose for a photo during softball practice Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Marissa Callahan is one of three returning sophomores for this year’s Central Lakes College Raiders.

The right-handed pitcher from Browerville is the lone returning pitcher, however, from a three-player rotation that helped CLC to a 23-12 season last year and a deep push in the Region 13B playoffs.

Callahan started 11 games and finished with an 8-6 record. In her 78.1 innings pitched, she struck out 60 and walked just 16. She allowed 86 hits and 49 earned runs for a 4.38 ERA.

“Marissa looks really good,” CLC head coach Ray Austin said. “It’s kind of a standing joke. She’s not a really good practice pitcher, but when you put somebody in the batter’s box she flips a switch and she’s about as competitive as they come. She throws three pitches and she hits her location really well. She doesn’t get rattled. She fights through adversity and is our early No. 1 pitcher.”

While former pitching teammates Victoria Wagner and Addie Sanford have graduated, Callahan won’t be the only Raider standing in the circle this season. Freshmen Emma Tautges of Brainerd and Jill Thompson of Isle will provide that same three-headed monster that was successful for CLC last season.


“I think our strength starts with pitching and defense,” Austin said. “The teams I’ve coached have always found ways to put runs on the board. We just need to field the ball and make plays we’re supposed to make. Our pitching will keep us in our games and the flexibility between the three to give different looks to different teams will be important.”

A pitcher practices in the gym.
Jill Thompson pitches during softball practice Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Tautges, who pitched, but mainly played first base for the Class 4A State runner-up Brainerd Warriors, is in rare company of someone who can claim she pitched in the Class 4A State title game. The former Warrior has that on her resume along with a pitching/hitting prowess that has Austin intrigued.

“Emma, we’re really excited for her,” Austin said. “She is hitting the ball really well in the cage. She’s working hard in the circle. She didn’t pitch a lot last year just because her sister was there. She’s throwing really well. In the last couple of weeks, she’s made some improvements to get back to what she would consider her peak performance.

“Jill has pitched for Isle for the last couple of years. She’s been their No. 1 and most likely their one and only. She was on the section final team that lost to Menahga on our field last year. They were one game away from going to state. She’s a really polished pitcher. She stays around the zone. She throws three or four pitches and she’s going to be valuable in that rotation.”

CLC's other two sophomore returners are shortstop Zakia Herron and catheter Halle Zupan.

Herron concluded the 2022 season with a .438 batting average. In 105 at-bats, she finished with 13 doubles, a triple, 36 runs scored and 21 RBIs.

“Hallie and Zakia both hit really well last season,” Austin said. “Zakia was our leadoff hitter and she was above .400 and Hallie was high .300s. Zakia is a hard worker. She’s one of those first-in-the-field-last-to-leave type players. She has a really high softball IQ. She’s just constantly been working on her swing and she works on her defensive stuff like no one else. She played in a lot of different positions last year because we were set at the shortstop position, but this year, she’s made it clear that’s her position and that’s where she’s going to help us the best.”

Zupan will split her time between catching and the outfield. At the plate, she hit .393 for the Raiders last season, In 89 at-bats, she registered six doubles, a home run, 19 runs scored and 24 RBIs.


“Hallie will split time behind the plate and the outfield,” Austin said.”We have two other catchers so we’ll be able to keep their legs fresh. She’s a pretty solid outfielder and she’ll spend some time in both positions.

“She’ll be hitting high, middle of our lineup. She’ll be in that four or five spot. She’s an RBI producer and someone who can hit the ball in the gaps and hopefully out of the park once in a while.”

CLC’s other catchers will be Morgan Majerus from Milaca. Majerus was a member of CLC’s volleyball team last fall. Gabrielle Dulas will also handle catching duties. The freshman is from Watertown-Mayer High School.

A catcher throws back the ball.
Halle Zupan throws a ball during softball practice Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Morgan is just a really good athlete,” Austin said. “She’s athletic. Receives well. Throws well and then she’s also able to spend some time in the outfield. She’s a contact hitter.

“Gabby is from Mayer. She played on a pretty good team. She was on the All-Star Series after the season. She has a really high IQ and can spend some time at third base as well. She’s a real student of the game and understands a lot.”

Callahan saw limited time at the plate last season, but she did record eight hits in just 27 at-bats. She scored twice and drove in two runs. She also walked six times.

“She’ll be in our lineup,” Austin said. “She has a really good bat. Last year, we just had a lot of kids who could hit the ball well. She had an ankle injury early so that took some at-bats away from her. This year, she’ll be in the middle of the lineup behind Hallie probably.”

Look for a triangular defensive rotation among the three CLC pitchers this season between pitching, first base and second base. Even if they’re not in the field, one of the three could be the designated hitter for CLC.


“Marissa has been taking reps at first and second base when she’s not pitching,” Austin said. “She’ll spend some time in the field or possibly as our extra hitter.

“Emma’s bat, it’s hard to calculate how valuable it’s going to be because she hit in the middle of the lineup on a really good team. She’s a gap-to-gap hitter. She’s a line-drive hitter and she has so much pure strength where the ball just jumps off of her bat. She’s the real deal. She hits the ball well and she’s hit the ball so hard our pitchers don’t want to throw live to her because they’re leery of what could happen.”

A softball player tries to make a basket with a softball.
Emma Tautges tries to make a basket with a softball during softball practice Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Roaming the outfield will be Halley Wright of Pillager and Sophia Laube of Brainerd. Laube finished her high school career as a track and field athlete, but played numerous innings of summer softball.

Isabelle Krowlecki of Isle will vie for time in the middle of the defense and the top of the batting lineup. Hannah Christle of Pillager will see playing time in the infield and Sierra Chisholm of Brainerd will be an emergency player/manager for the Raiders.

A late newcomer to the roster is freshman Jennifer Platz who played for Springfield High School.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Raiders softball

Ray Austin

Head coach: Ray Austin, seventh season


Career record: 119-74

2022 record: 23-12 overall

Returning players: Zakia Herron, Marissa Callahan, Halle Zupan

Assistant coach: Carlie Sweet, Ashley Erickson (volunteer)

Raider roster

Sophomores: Marissa Callahan (Browerville, P/IF), Zakia Herron (Brainerd, IF), Halle Zupan (Pierz, OF/C)

Freshmen: Emma Tautges (Brainerd, P/IF), Jill Thompson (Isle, P/IF), Morgan Majerus (Milaca, C/IF), Gabrielle Dulas (Mayer, C/IF), Hailey Wright (Pillager, OF), Sophia Laube (Brainerd, OF), Isabelle Krawlecki (Isle, IF), Hannah Christle (Pillager, utility), Sierra Chisholm (Brainerd, manager, emergency player), Jennifer Platz (Morgan, Inf)


Raider schedule

Saturday, March 11: vs. Anoka-Ramsey at Space Coast Spring Training, Titusville, Florida, 7:30 p.m (2)

Sunday, March 12: vs. Rowan College South Jersey at Space Coast Spring Training, Titusville, Florida, 7:30 p.m (2)

Monday, March 13: vs. Spoon River College at Space Coast Spring Training, Titusville, Florida, 7:30 p.m (2)

March 15: vs TBA at Space Coast Spring Training, Titusville, Florida, 7:30 p.m (2)

March 24: vs. Anoka-Ramsey at M Health Fairview Dome 7:30 p.m.

March 24: vs. Hibbing at National Sports Center, Blaine 9:15 a.m.

March 24: vs. Rainy River at National Sports Center, Blaine 11:15 a.m.

March 31: vs. Rochester at Rochester Regional Stadium and Bubble 1 p.m.


March 31: vs. Ridgewater at Rochester Regional Stadium and Bubble 3 p.m.

April 1: vs. St. Cloud Technical at Rochester Regional Stadium and Bubble 10 a.m.

April 1: vs. Anoka-Ramsey at Rochester Regional Stadium and Bubble 2 p.m.

April 7: vs. Hibbing at National Sports Center, Blaine, 2 p.m. (2)

April 8: vs. Lake Region State College at National Sports Center, Blaine, noon (2)

April 12: hosts Northland 3 p.m. (2)

April 15: at Mesabi Range noon (2)

April 16: hosts Itasca noon (2)

April 19: hosts Vermilion 3 p.m. (2)

April 22: hosts Rainy River Noon (2)

April 23: at Hibbing noon (2)

April 29: at Northland 2 p.m. (2)

April 30: hosts Mesabi Range Noon (2)

May 3: at Vermilion 3 p.m. (2)

May 6: at Rainy River noon (2)

May 7: at Itasca noon (2)

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