Bailey Tjossem knew she would be a better pitcher if she added a fourth pitch to her arsenal.
In the offseason, she did just that by adding a change-up to her repertoire.
The newly-added change-up has served Tjossem — a South O’Brien High School senior and this week’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week — quite well.
Tjossem recorded a no-hitter last Monday against Clay Central-Everly, then quieted down West Sioux's offense on Tuesday to two runs on three hits.
It took a while for Tjossem to learn how to properly throw a changeup.
For one, Tjossem admitted her hands are small and she needed a way to figure out how to grip the softball properly. She eventually went with gripping it in a C-shaped form as close to her palm as she can.
Then, Tjossem had to learn to stop her motion in mid-air so that the pitch wouldn’t have as much speed on it.
“It was tricky to develop,” Tjossem said. “I release it and I just push my hand toward my catcher. I don’t snap it. That slows it down quite a bit.”
Her other pitches are a fastball, riseball and curveball.
Tjossem uses her changeup in all scenarios, in all pitch counts and is open to throwing it whenever she needs to.
“Right now, it’s working great,” Tjossem said. “Hitters are swinging way early for it. They don’t see that my motion is changing.”
Entering the Wolverines’ (10-0) game on Monday against Remsen St. Mary’s, Tjossem was 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA. She has struck out 33 hitters, and has surrendered 13 walks, 21 hits and seven earned runs. She earned two of those wins Saturday at the Wolverines’ home tournament.
Tjossem’s ERA is the second-lowest in the War Eagle Conference, behind Gehlen Catholic freshman Rylee Schnepf (1.38).
The Wolverines senior admits she would rather strike out her opposition. She’s glad, though, of the defense behind her that has committed just 11 errors, which according to QuikStats, is the second-fewest in the conference.
“I have confidence in them behind me, and that takes pressure off me,” Tjossem said. “I have a defense behind me that can get to any ball.”
There was a moment in the winter, however, when South O’Brien coach Heather Struve wasn’t sure if Tjossem would be ready for the season.
Tjossem was dealing with a sore shoulder in the offseason, and was shut down for a month.
Tjossem threw 141 of South O’Brien’s 148 1/3 innings last year. She went 20-3 with a 2.93 ERA.
The Wolverines needed to come up with a back-up plan in case Tjossem wasn’t ready.
So, Heather Struve turned to Wolverines junior Sydney Struve and freshman Kenna Bauer. Sydney Struve threw just 2 1/3 innings last year, and Bauer was in the circle for just four innings as an eighth-grader.
Even with Tjossem healthy, the Wolverines have three solid pitchers who can pitch in whenever needed.
Sydney Struve and Bauer have combined to pitch 19 of the Wolverines’ 53 innings. That may not seem like a lot, but Heather Struve likes having a three-person rotation.
Coach Struve said that Tjossem is the Wolverines’ best option in the circle, and when she’s pitching, it also gives the Wolverines their best defensive lineup.
“For Bailey to be fresh against a team that is going to be good competition, I think that’s a big thing,” Heather Struve said. “I don't know if she’s 100 percent, but she’s seemed like it.”
Braden Vonk, Hinton baseball: Vonk threw a perfect game last Monday against Gehlen Catholic. He struck out 13 batters.
Payton Slaughter, Cherokee softball: She went 8-for-14 last week, including three-hit games on Monday and Tuesday.