Clutch isn’t just a six letter word

Morrison County Record All-Area Player of the Year: Pierz senior Matt Tautges

By Tyler ohmann

Sports Editor

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Some say there is a clutch gene. A predisposed part of an athletes very being that gives them the ability to make the right decision in high-pressure situations.

If there was ever an example of that, it would be Pierz senior and Morrison County Record Baseball Player of the Year, Matt Tautges.

Tautges truly believes he was gifted with such an ability.

“I think that is just built in you, and you have to be born for the moment,” Tautges said. “There are some people that are not made for it, and some are. I was just lucky enough to be born with it.”

Throughout his senior season, Tautges was called on by the Pioneers in just those aforementioned situations. Pierz, who finished the season with a school-record 24 wins and a state runner-up finish in Class AA, was on the ropes several times throughout the playoffs.

Tautges pitched them out of several jams in the Section 6AA Title game against Foley, June 8.

“I feel like I have to just dial in, focus a little more, because one mistake can cost a run or two or three even,” Tautges said.

He did it again in the state semifinal in a 1-0 win against Duluth Marshall.

“One of the most impressive things about Matt is his instincts and knowledge of the game of baseball,” said Pierz head coach Danny Saehr. “The bigger the game, the better Matt plays.”

Tautges also provided walkoff heroics, smashing a screaming line drive into right field for an RBI single that sent Pierz to its first ever state title game.

“Matt is a fierce competitor and he just finds a way to help his team win,” Saehr said. “Matt is an outstanding pitcher, but he’s also a very tough out at the plate as he’s come up with a number of clutch and game winning hits during his career, including the walkoff hit in the state semifinals.”

After each of those heroic moments, Tautges let out a lot of emotion. Loud shouts, fist pumping and excitement are not something out of the ordinary after coming through in the clutch for Tautges.

“I feel like that is just being really competitive,” Tautges said. “I hate losing.”

Pierz only lost three times all year, but one of those times was in the section playoffs, sending the Pioneers down a much tougher road to the state tournament through the losers bracket.

“After the Foley game, me and (Matt) Kummet were not very happy,” Tautges said. “We were saying that we didn’t want to feel this again.”

The Pioneers won three games by a score of 1-0 in the postseason this year.

“All those close games we were in, and we came out on top,” Tautges said. “We were down, but we found a way to keep playing our game.”

Tautges finished his senior season with a 10-1 record on the mound for Pierz. He had an impressive .83 ERA and struck out 89 batters in 75 2/3 innings.

“Without our defense, my pitching stats wouldn’t be nearly as good,” Tautges said. “Kummet frames the ball really good, giving me a couple strike calls just from him, and his pitch calling is awesome.”

When he wasn’t on the mound as the ace of Pierz’ staff, Tautges played shortstop. He started out his varsity career as a third basemen his sophomore year.

Matt was a key piece on two teams that were very successful, and was a true joy to coach,” Saehr said.

Tautges was also one of the Pioneers’ top hitters, batting either leadoff or second in both his junior and senior seasons.

As a senior, Tautges hit .350 with a .460 on-base percentage. Tautges drove in 15 runs and scored 28 himself on 31 hits, 11 of which were extra base knocks. He was also second on the team with 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

Extremely disciplined, Tautges struck out only seven times in 114 plate appearances.

Tautges was involved in only two of three state appearances that Pierz has ever made at state in baseball, and he said that he really enjoyed how the community rallied around the team during those playoff runs.

“Having the whole community behind is pretty cool,” Tautges said. “When we were going to state, everyone around town is talking to you about it, wishing you good luck, and that’s awesome.”

Of course, Tautges admits that he owes a lot of his success to his teammates, three of which join him on the Record’s All-Area team this year.

“We had a team full of All Stars,” Tautges said. “When you have 20 good athletes, it is pretty special.”

He said that his teammates’ help was most evident when he was on the mound.

“I felt like I didn’t have that much pressure on me, because of how deep we were,” Tautges said. “I could just pitch my game because I knew I had a good defense behind me.”

In the end, Tautges and his clutch gene will go down as one of the most decorated and revered players in Pioneers history.

Especially after winning the Class AA Player of the Year Award from the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association.

“It caught me off guard,” Tautges said. “I wasn’t expecting to win that award, especially with how many good players were just sitting around me.”

“There have been a lot of good athletes, so to be in the same company as them is really humbling,” Tautges said.

 

MC Record Players of the Year:

 

2016: Lane Girtz, Pierz

2015: Tyler Evans, Upsala-Swanville

2014: Eric Lampert, Upsala-Swanville

2013: Josh Wenzel, Little Falls

2012: Joey Hanowski, Little Falls