She is the sparkplug, undeniably the one who ignites the fire of the Brainerd Warriors softball team at bat, behind the plate and vocally.
Junior catcher Abby Rehberger went on a tear in the North Subsection 8, Class 3A tournament. In the final three subsection games she was 5-for-11 with two doubles, a triple, two stolen bases and four runs.
She has helped the Warriors to the best-of-three section championship series, which begins 5 p.m. Thursday at Willmar. Two games, if necessary, will be played at Adamson Field in Brainerd on Friday.
In the regular season Brainerd (19-4) lost to Willmar 2-1 in 11 innings and 4-3. The Warriors' only other losses were to Alexandria.
"I think it made us stronger as a team," Rehberger said of the losses. "We realized we're going to have to work even harder to get to where we are right now.
Sport: Fast-pitch softball
Weight: 125 pounds
Other sports: Hockey
Memorable sports achievement: Playing in 2002 state softball tournament
Grade-point average: 3.7
Favorite subject: Drawing, sports medicine
Favorite food: Eggs
Favorite movie: "Sweet Home Alabama"
Hobbies: Playing sports
Future plans: Attend college
Athlete she admires: Teammate Hilary Smith
Parents: John and JoAnn Rehberger
"We're excited to play Willmar. We're kind of the underdog going into it. We're looking for that revenge factor and I think we will be all right."
The few times things haven't gone right for Brainerd it has been Rehberger who lets teammates know they need to elevate their game.
"When we're not playing well you will hear her in the huddle," Warriors assistant coach Dan Bzdok said. "She's the one who's going to bark a little bit, but she also has the ability to keep everybody loose.
"I've never seen anybody handle pressure, and it can be stressful, with the humor she has. She just enjoys playing the game."
Rehberger enjoys leading off. She's the prototype leadoff hitter. She knows the strike zone, is patient and can run as well as hit. She works the count, doesn't mind hitting with two strikes and has drawn a team-high 12 walks.
"I would rather hit there than probably any other place," Rehberger said of the top of the order. "Being the one they count on to get on base every time, I like the pressure. I'm not scared to get behind in the count. I'm just trying to get on and have people hit me around."
Her .377 average ranks third on the team, behind only shortstop Lindsay Jourdan (.413) and pitcher Hilary Smith (.397) but she's not content hitting .300.
"Actually, I'm disappointed with the way I'm hitting right now because last year I was over .400, this year I'm below," Rehberger said. "I'm getting on base a lot so that part is good.
"I've been hitting line drives a lot lately. I'm just hitting them right at people most of the time. As soon as I start hitting them in the gaps I'll be all right."
Rehberger's contributions behind the plate have been invaluable. She has helped Smith throw 11 shutouts this season. Rehberger calls nearly every pitch Smith throws, without assistance from the coaching staff.
"Earlier this week I gave her a sheet on different hitting styles, what to look for," Bzdok said. "She's been recognizing that all year, as far as foot placement in the box, hand position. We let her control it because she understands what Hilary needs to throw."
Umpires also appreciate officiating behind Rehberger.
"Her rapport with umpires is incredible," Bzdok said. "They just love her working behind the plate. She's got a sense of humor, she knows how to question things properly, and she never tries to embarrass them."
Other notable efforts:
Jared Hoppe, boys' golf, qualified for his second straight Class 2A state tournament.
Jenni Beilke and Taylor Hartje, girls' track, each won two subsection titles.
Tim Yeh, boys' track, won two subsection titles; James Strand and Nate Tyner each won one.
Sean Switajewski and Josh Holbrook, boys' tennis, finished fourth in subsection doubles and qualified for the section.
Hilary Smith, softball, was 3-for-4 against Bemidji with an RBI single and two doubles and pitched three- and one-hit shutouts against Thief River Falls.
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