Nikki DeChaine has waited her turn.
This year is her turn.
DeChaine played primarily junior varsity softball for the Brainerd Warriors her freshman through junior years. This year she has moved into the starting lineup behind the plate and is capitalizing on her opportunity.
“When I was younger it was little frustrating (not getting to play varsity),” she said. “They moved me up when I was in ninth grade, but (the wait’s) been worth it. I’ve been working my hardest the past few years and I’m finally getting my shot.”
DeChaine is one of the Warriors’ leading hitters this year as well as handling the pitching staff and providing leadership.
She had a whale of a day in Tuesday’s doubleheader against Willmar. She finished 6 for 6 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
In nine games she’s batting .536 (15 for 28) and is one of the team’s top run generators with 13 RBIs.
“At first I was a little shaky,” DeChaine said of her hitting. “Personally, I don’t like slower pitchers. I like to lean forward, I don’t like to sit back and wait. Seeing better pitchers helps me stay back, and (assistant) coach (Dan) Bzdok has given me a lot of help lately.”
At the Richfield tournament last weekend she rapped three hits against the host Spartans.
“At the plate I felt comfortable,” DeChaine said. “Coach Bzdok and (former Warrior) Abby Rehberger, who came to our practice on Friday, changed my hitting style a little bit, and that’s helped a lot.”
Against Sauk Rapids April 17 she collected three hits and drove in three runs.
DeChaine also has been confident behind the dish, catching Nikki Anderson and Chelsie Manton.
“I’ve caught Nikki for a long time, so I’m a little bit used to it,” she said. “But it’s a lot different coming from the JV the past few years, coming in and starting at an important position. Nikki helps me too. She brings a lot of confidence to me personally. Her accuracy helps me as a player.”
DeChaine, a catcher since seventh grade, worked diligently on her defense in preparation for this year.
“I wanted to be the best I could be this year,” she said. “At dome ball (in Minnetonka) this winter it was my main focus, to work on my defense.”
DeChaine is also focused on being a captain, along with Anderson and Manton.
“You call a lot of the shots,” she said. “I think a catcher has to be a natural leader.”
Warriors head coach Mike Zauhar couldn’t agree more.
“Her leadership has been just absolutely outstanding,” he said. “She has taken the bull by the horns. I’m just really impressed with her leadership.
“We brought her up as a ninth-grader. She’s paid her dues over the last three years, now it’s finally paying off for her. She organized and participated in a number of offseason weight training sessions. She also spent January and February playing dome ball in Minnetonka with the Brainerd team.
“I couldn’t be more happy for her. She’s just an outstanding person.”
Zauhar has also been impressed with DeChaine at or behind the plate.
“She’s been swinging a great bat for us,” he said. “She had three hits in the game against Richfield and an RBI. And, she hit some rocket shots off the gal from Bloomington Jefferson, who’s going Division I.
“Obviously, we have one of the best pitchers (Anderson) in the state of Minnesota who’s throwing the ball in the middle to high 60s (mph) and has great movement on her pitches. Nikki (DeChaine) has done a remarkable job receiving those.”
Other notable efforts:
• Nikki Anderson, softball, struck out 23 batters and allowed five hits in a doubleheader sweep against Willmar and pitched a 2-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts against Fergus Falls.
• Drew Sannes, baseball, pitched a complete game with five strikeouts and collected three hits against St. Cloud Tech.