Leadoff is one of the most important positions in a team’s batting order.

Pine River-Backus Tigers’ leadoff hitter Danielle Burgoyne proved her value Friday, May 21.

The PR-B senior smoked three hits, including a grand slam and triple to combine for six RBIs in a win over Kelliher/Northome that clinched a share of the Upper Mississippi Conference title for the Tigers.

“She’s been a starter for me since freshman year,” Tigers head coach John Riewer said. “She’s been an outstanding player and she loves softball. She’s been a dream to coach because she loves to play.”

The emotions against Kelliher/Northome were high because the Tigers knew what was at stake.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“At the plate,I was just thinking about hitting the ball and not popping up,” Burgoyne said. “We wanted to get that win for the chance of being Upper Mississippi champions.”

Riewer praised Burgoyne’s base running ability and said the team goes as she goes.

For the season, Burgoyne holds a .446 batting average, with a .648 on-base percentage. She owns a team-leading 33 runs with 25 hits. Of those 25 hits, she has four doubles, three triples and four home runs. Her walk-to-strikeout ratio is 17 walks to six strikeouts. She’s swiped 17 stolen bases and knocked in 19 RBIs.

RELATED: Female Area Athlete of Week: Sadlovsky powering Pierz to new heights in softball

“I put her at the top of the order and she sets the tone for the game,” Riewer said. “She can get on base and good things happen. Danielle leads by example; she's not a really vocal player. She’s very heads up and understands the game. You can’t teach certain instincts and she has that ‘it’ whatever that ‘it’ is.”

Burgoyne describes her approach at the plate as confident.

“I just go up there, relax and do the best I can do,” she said. “I do like being leadoff hitter although there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that to show the team that you can hit off the pitcher. I like having the coach having the confidence in me to bat me leadoff, so I can show the girls how to get on base.”

Riewer said Burgoyne’s confidence is the biggest difference since her freshman year.

“She runs well. She throws well. She fields well. She’s a good hitter and she’s passionate about softball,” Riewer said. “I think she’ll make a college coach very happy.”

Burgoyne hasn’t signed anywhere officially yet, but has her eye on playing for the Central Lake College Raiders next spring.

Where Burgoyne is a rare leadoff hitter is her flashes of power. With 11 extra-base hits this season, including four home runs, it adds a different element to the PR-B offense when the lineup turns over.

RELATED:Female Area Athlete of the Week: Dickmann red-hot for red-hot Pioneers

“I’ve kind of always had that,” Burgoyne said of her power. “I also have been known to steal bases a lot and coach trusts me to steal on my own as well.”

At the top of the lineup, Burgoyne sets a good example for the rest of the Tiger hitters of how to approach an at-bat.

“I think by her work ethic and through her love of the game she gives everyone confidence,” Riewer said. “We lead her off for a reason. She’s our best baserunner and one of our best hitters. She sets the tone. When you score 33 runs and we’ve played 19 games that’s almost two runs a game, so the girls know she’s going to be on.”

Getting a share of the Upper Mississippi Conference title was a big accomplishment for the PR-B team after last season getting wiped out completely.

“I’m just so happy they got to play the game we love,” Riewer said. “The kids got the opportunity to play the game they love and with their friends. Then on top of that to be in a three-way tie for the conference title with Walker(-Hackensack-Akeley) and Blackduck; it’s pretty meaningful. Pine River-Backus has always been competitive the six years I’ve been coach.”



Other notable performances:
Softball: Brandi Warren, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, ripped two home runs in a doubleheader against New York Mills.
Montana Carsten, Wadena-Deer Creek, went 3-4 with a double, triple and home run against Bagley. She tallied three hits against Ottertail Central.
Katelyn Gardner, Wadena-Deer Creek, tallied three hits and seven RBIs against Ottertail Central.
Olivia Peterson, Pillager, tallied six hits in a doubleheader against Menahga.
Briana Blais, Pillager, struck out 20 batters in two games against Menagha.
Kendra Couture, Little Falls, tallied two hits, a home run and four RBIs against Sauk Rapids.
Ramsey Tulenchik, Pine River-Backus, went 4-5 with a double, six RBIs and four runs against Staples-Motley.
Mya Sawyer, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale finished the week with three doubles and a home run.
Track and Field: Teagan Piecek, Aitkin, won three events at home meet.
Golf: Adriana Dickey, Staples-Motley, won at Cragun’s Legacy Courses with an 80.

Danielle Burgoyne

Year: Senior

School: Pine River-Backus

Sport: Softball

Position: shortstop

Highlights: She went 3-4 with a triple, grand slam, three runs and six RBIs against Kelliher/Northome.