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Softball: Warriors finish a win away

The Brainerd Warriors played in the Class 4A State Championship.

softball players hug
Brainerd's Mya Tautges hugs her older sister Olivia Tautges after she pulled from the circle during the seventh inning of the Class 4A State Championship softball game Friday, June 10, 2022. Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!
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NORTH MANKATO — Addison Hillman was the embodiment of this year’s Brainerd Warriors softball team.

The senior never started in the No. 2 seeded Warriors’ 26-1 season that ended with a 6-0 loss to No. 4 seeded Forest Lake in the Class 4A State Championship game Friday, June 10, at Caswell Park.

Despite not getting her name in the starting lineup, Hillman was prepared to perform in all 27 games. She knew from the beginning what her role was and she was content just being part of the team.

“I knew from the beginning my position was to be the positive person and keep the team up,” Hillman said. “I was also in charge of base running for Olivia and I like base running so it was perfect for me. (Head coach Shane) Jordan told me I was hitting today for my last game of my senior year. God, that made me cry. So I already started crying before all of this.

“I’ve been playing softball for forever and just to be on this team with these girls was just so nice.”

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Like she did all year, Hillman made the most of her opportunity and recorded one of Brainerd’s five hits against Forest Lake pitcher Hannah Tong. It was Hillman’s first career varsity hit.

“That meant a lot,” Hillman said. “I had hits before but they were errors that got me on base. This was my first legit hit. We always get a ball for your first varsity hit so now I get a ball.”

Tong was near unhittable for the Rangers in the circle. She scattered the five hits to go with three walks. She struck out seven in seven innings.

“She had a really good changeup and she didn’t have many tells at all,” Jordan said. “She threw a heck of a game. They played great. They put the ball in play and got hits when it mattered. Credit goes to them.

“They’ve been here before. They got second place last season and for the last handful of years, they’ve been here so they have the experience. I just can’t take away what our program accomplished; everything these girls accomplished. They’ll remember this season for the rest of their lives and I’m so happy about that.”

Friday’s outcome was predicated by one inning -- Forest Lake’s fifth. A leadoff walk was followed by a sacrifice bunt, a single, a double with a throwing error, another single, another sacrifice bunt and a single. An Olivia Tautges strikeout ended the five-run bombardment.

“It was a very small strike zone,” Brainerd catcher Sophie Mattson said.

Olivia Tautges suffered the loss. She allowed six runs, four earned, on 12 hits and three walks. She struck out five in 6.1 innings. Twin sister Emma Tautges got the last two outs on infield pop-ups.

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“Olivia is really strong,” Mattson said. “She can pitch all day every day and give it her best. She is just amazing.”

Elsa Borchert walked in the second but was stalled at first base in the second inning. Maren Ceynowa hit a single and moved to second, but ran right into the Forest Lake third baseman after she bobbled a line drive. In the fourth inning, Emma Tautges walked and moved to second on a ground out.

Mya Tautges led off the fifth with a double and advanced to third on Ceynowa’s deep fly to right field, but that’s where she remained.

In the sixth, Olivia Tautges produced a one-out walk. Hillman pinch-ran for her and got to second with an Emma Tautges single, but they remained there.

Hillman got her single in the seventh.

“Maybe most people will remember the last game that we lost, but I think our girls will remember all the wins and the season as a whole,” Jordan said. “Everything they accomplished on the field and off the field, these girls bonded together and had a great experience. Our community and town rallied around us and that’s something to be proud of. It’s something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Thats’ more important than a win at the end of the day.”

The Brainerd Warrior finished the regular season 20-0. They won the Central Lakes Conference title. They won the Section 8-4A title and they advanced to the Class 4A State Title game.

softball player hits the ball
Brainerd's Mya Tautges hits a double Friday, June 10, 2022, during the Class 4A State Championship game at Caswell Park, North Makato. Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

“We’re something special and really that’s all I can say,” Warrior junior Josie Kappes said. “The team chemistry is even more than our playing ability. We always laugh together. Our bus rides are the favorite part of our away games. We love being with each other which makes it so great.

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“The seniors created this team.“We’ve grown up playing together and they’ve always been those people that you look up to. It will be interesting to see what we do without them because I’ve never had to play without them.”

Olivia Tautges and Meghan Smith made the Class 4A All-Tournament team, but it was Hillman who may have been the star senior Friday.

“A lot of us have been playing together for a really long time,” Hillman said. “We’ve known each other. We’ve grown up together. The seniors, we’ve played different sports together so we just know what to do if someone strikes out. We know whether to leave them alone or to talk to them.”

Forest Lake 6 12 0

Brainerd 0 5 1

WP: Hannah Tong. LP: Olivia Tautges. 2B: Brd-Mya Tautges; FL-Bethany Weiss, Maddie Larrabee; Amber Dunaski.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Class 4A Final

Score: Forest Lake 6, Brainerd 0

Key: A five-run fifth inning by Forest Lake.

Overall: Brd 26-1, FL 22-5

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