By DeShaun Hartley
Sometimes in life we are put into awkward positions, we are faced with challenges that force us to move out of our comfort zone and sometimes it only takes one person believing in us to give us the confidence we need to succeed in a bigger role on the biggest of stages. For sophomore shortstop Tara Oltmann, all of the above are obstacles that she has faced during the season.
Between balancing school, sports and a social life, a lot of student athletes still find a way to prevail in the toughest of times. Oltmann is just a prime example of that. The Giddings, Texas, native started all 59 games at second-base as a freshman last year, but this year was tasked with transitioning over to Shortstop.
For anyone who knows softball/baseball, the shortstop is the main guardian of the infield and must cover a large area of the field and at the Division one-level, the runners are faster, and you have to be quicker, accurate or the rest of the defense could crumble. The responsibility of the infield falls heavily on your shoulders. Oltmann has lived up to the challenges set before her by setting season goals for herself and using mental toughness as one of her greatest assets.
“I just want to make the daily plays, and if I get a chance to make exceptional plays, making those plays as well and being consistent on defense,” Oltmann said.
Throughout the first half of the season the position switch was something new for Oltmann, and she struggled trying to find a rhythm. She had 11 errors throughout the first 25 games, and the defense for the Bobcats was still trying to find themselves, especially, with the loss of Ariel Ortiz and the conferences best pitcher, Randi Rupp.
As the season went on, you could progressively see Oltmann grow into her new home over at short. The sophomore only recorded four errors in her final 26 games of the season. Not only that her pitching staff had high praise for the defensive prouis that Oltmann’s defense brings to the table.
One of the conference’s top pitchers and starting pitcher for the Bobcats, Meagan King, had this to say about her defense.
“It’s easy to pitch behind when you know your defense will be there for you,” King said.
In order to be a great player, sometimes watching your elders, understanding what the right techniques are and learning the things that made them successful when they were in your position not too long ago. For Oltmann, the mentor she credits for helping her grow as a player this season has been none other than Ortiz.
Ortiz was the shortstop for Texas State last year, the second shortstop in the history of the the school to receive first team all-conference honors three years running. Ortiz was also a teammate of Oltmann last year when the Bobcats won the Sun-Belt conference tournament.
“She’s somebody that I looked up to,” Oltmann said. “I always look to her if I had any questions, I would ask her first because I knew she had my back. Sometimes in my head, I think what would Ariel do? What would she think?”
Players who are constantly looking for a way to get better, show improvement as the season progresses and for Oltmann it has been nothing but that for her.
The transition for Oltmann hasn’t been easy, but between leading her team in RBI’s and stepping into a larger role on the field, it’s safe to say that Texas State softball has their shortstop for the next couple of seasons. Even while managing all the different movements and fixes to her game, Oltmann continued to grow over the season and has been awarded All Sun-Belt second team. If that doesn’t depict the dedication and toughness she’s shown all season, then what will?
With Texas State hosting the Sun-belt conference tournament, the defensive-side of the ball will be extremely important when defending their title. Oltmann and her team will come in as a four seed. Taking on the winner of the ULM Warhawks and the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Her defensive play at shortstop will be highlighted all throughout this tournament and it will surely be a key to this team continuing their reign as Sun-Belt Conference champions.
Featured image courtesy of Texas State Athletics.