Her seventh grade coach put her on the B-squad because her pitch was too fast. In eighth grade, the varsity coach saw her potential and she was starting pitcher for the varsity team.
“I wanted to tell her, this is fast pitch!” Augustana junior Jenelle Trautmann said.
Trautmann, a redshirt sophomore who plans to go five years at Augustana, is the Vikings’ only returning pitcher. In eighth grade, Trautmann was intimidated to be starting pitcher on the varsity squad in her high school in Hastings, Minn.
“I was so scared,” she said. “I was excited to be there, but I also wanted to make sure I did everything correctly.”
Today, Trautmann’s confidence is evident whether she has a ball or a bat in her hand.
“I’m very confident,” Trautmann said. “Whenever I step in the batter’s box, I have the mentality that the pitcher is not going to blow it past me. And if they do, they’re lucky.”
Trautmann said her confidence is backed by a strong mental attitude that comes from the support of her coaches and teammates.
Head coach Gretta Melsted said Trautmann’s talent is an irreplaceable asset to the team.
“She’s probably one of the top two most talented softball players I’ve ever coached,” Melsted said.
This year features a young roster for Augustana softball with six freshmen, many of who are in starting positions. Many returners are also playing new positions this season, and it has taken a little time to adjust.
“The talent of the freshman class is quite on par with the graduating class,” Melsted said. “What you’re missing is the experience.”
After a rough start to the season, Trautmann said the team is starting to click, especially after they set team goals together.
“Our goal is to be playing the best softball we possibly can this season and to always reach our potential,” Melsted said, who believes this means a shot at the regional tournament.
Trautmann’s individual goals include being named All-American again. In the 2012 season, she was nominated to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s All-America second team for both pitching and hitting.
For pitching, Trautmann was 20-6 in the circle as a redshirt freshman with a 2.45 ERA in 143.0 innings pitched. She struck out 124 batters last season and pitched two complete shutouts.
She led the Vikings with a .393 batting average and has the team’s best 59 RBI’s.
Named the 2012 NSIC Freshman of the Year, she also earned spots on the all-conference, NSIC All-Tournament, and all-region teams.
“[My coaches] push me because I tell them I want to be another All-American, I want to be the best pitcher in the nation, and they push me toward that – whatever it takes,” Trautmann said.
Catcher Theresa McMahon said the team sees Trautmann’s dedication to being a good pitcher.
“Regardless of the day, she is always finding ways to step up her game,” McMahon said. “It’s hard to find players that don’t get burnt out by the hours of work they put in to the sport, but she is clearly an exception to that.”
This season, Trautmann currently leads the Vikings with 31 RBI’s, a 1.67 ERA and 14 home runs. Humbly, she said stats don’t mean that much to her.
“I just go out and play. I feel like if I do my best every single day then my stats are going to be fine,” Trautmann said.
Trautmann is currently dealing with added pressure that comes from being the only pitcher for the Vikings. Freshmen Carley Pickett and Karlee Koopman are both injured. Pickett can briefly relieve Trautmann in games, and Koopman is expected to return in two weeks.
Melsted said there’s a big difference in their pitching staff this year compared to last year.
“We had three really strong pitchers, with Jenelle in that crew, so they were really freed up just to pitch. We had a staff,” she said. But Melsted said Trautmann is handling the pressure as well as she can and attributes it to her work ethic.
“She can physically do it,” Melsted said. “The part that starts wearing on a person is mentally.”
Trautmann said she can handle the brunt because it’s helping her push herself, but said it will definitely be helpful having the other pitchers back.
“We’re going to be an outstanding staff,” she said. “Our pitching is going to be amazing. Nobody is going to touch us.”
Trautmann said her confidence on the mound and behind the plate is the most important part of the game, as well as the confidence she has in her defense.
“If the batter does get a hit, I know my team will be able to pick me up,” she said. “I don’t have any doubt in my teammates. I trust all of them to make the play.”
Trautmann also attributes her confidence to McMahon, who she said helps brighten her day when they’re working together.
McMahon says Trautmann’s love of the game has driven her to strive to be better.
“As her teammate and catcher, I admire the hours Jenelle puts in to the game,” Theresa McMahon said. “She is truly dedicated to the sport and her position.”
Last year, Trautmann and McMahon tied for the season’s most home runs at 18, which helped the Vikings lead the nation of with 80 home runs. This year, Trautmann has already hit 14.
“Obviously she’s going to shatter that [record],” Melsted said. “So just having that type of athlete in your line up just really changes everything.”
Along with her coaches, her teammates can see her dedication and value the hard work she puts in every day. McMahon said Trautmann has been a leading role model this year because of the work and time she’s put in, even outside of practices.
“I’ve never met someone who has dedicated so much of their time to softball and improving their skills, which in turn helps the team succeed,” McMahon said.
The extra hours, the long practices and the added pressure could add up, but Trautmann said her love of the game and the people she’s around make it worth it.
“My favorite part of softball is being around good people and being around people who love the game,” she said.