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FISHER — Earlier this season, Karissa Fredrickson and her brother, Taw, each strolled to the plate at the same time miles apart.
Karissa — a junior on the Fisher softball team — and Taw — playing his final season for the Illinois College baseball program — both smacked home runs in their at-bat. With their mother, Evon, watching the Bunnies’ game in person and Taw’s homer on her phone online, she got to see both long balls.
It was Karissa’s first bomb of the year, and it sparked a bragging rights bet between the two siblings over who could hit the most home runs this season.
“He had hit a few home runs already before I had hit my first for this year. Then I hit one, and he hit another, and I hit another, and so on,” Karissa said. “We’re both really proud of each other but also pretty competitive as siblings.”
The two are neck-and-neck in the power struggle, Karissa having sent four balls over the fence, and Taw owning five round-trippers. Karissa’s total is second on the team next to Becca Clanton’s eight, and Taw is the Blueboys’ leader, accounting for more than half of the club’s total of nine.
Both have been outstanding players, despite some struggles this year — the Bunnies stand at 9-8 and lost three consecutive games last week, and the Blueboys are 7-18. But the two share similar characteristics and statistics.
Each has spent time as their team’s leadoff hitter, each has played third base, and each has been surging at the plate.
Karissa either leads the team or is in the top three in several categories: runs (19), hits (23), doubles (5) and RBI (15). Taw leads the Blueboys in hits (28), RBI (17), slugging percentage (.511), at-bats (94) and total bases (48).
The talent in the Fredrickson family is also backed by Kelcie, a former Fisher softball standout now in her sophomore season as the No. 1 pitcher on the Augustana College roster. She holds team-bests in starts (nine), appearances (14), earned run average (3.78), strikeouts (30) and innings pitched (63).
The three siblings are close and the elder two have passed down some wisdom to their younger sister over the years.
“They’ve both given me plenty of advice for not only athletics but life in general. It’s nice having older siblings that can give you a little insight on things. I’m extremely thankful to have Kelcie and Taw in my life,” Karissa said.
But not lost among the three is some competitive drive.
“Athletics-wise, (we’re competitive) but more so supportive of one another,” Karissa said. “We’re not mean/arrogant competitive but, rather, we push each other to be better. I remember when I was a little girl, probably about 3, I would go outside in the backyard with Kelcie and Taw and play soccer. Also, when I was about a year and half, I was determined that I was going to be like my older siblings and roller blade with them, so mom padded me up and I took off. I never let them do something without me that I thought I could do too. I’ve enjoyed being Kelcie’s sidekick and helping out with teams she’s played on when they’ve been short (on) players. I really miss watching them play, not only softball/baseball, but volleyball and basketball as well in high school.”
Many of Taw and Kelcie’s games fall on the same days as Karissa’s, so it has been difficult for her to catch many games this season, though she said she did leave after Friday’s game in LeRoy to watch Augustana take on Illinois Wesleyan, and last weekend she watched Taw play. When she can’t make it to their games, she will watch them online.
Watching those games and her brother’s approach at the plate may have given her some inspiration, or perhaps Kelcie has given some advice to the junior third baseman. Whatever the case, something has clicked for Karissa this year, and she is driving the ball better, showcasing some power and consistency in sending line drives all over Kellar Field — most of the time up the middle and in the gaps, which is her strength.
“She’s not a traditional home run hitter, but, boy, it’s nice when she does catch one,” Fisher coach Ken Ingold said. “All of her home runs have been to center or right-center. (Home runs will) happen if you keep driving the ball and get a little bit of elevation. She’s a line-drive hitter, and she’s done a nice job this year.”
Karissa readily admits that in previous years her mental game has not been where it needs to be. But both she and her coach have seen that change in 2017, leading to a much better approach at the dish.
“I’ve had trouble in the past with turning the page,” Karissa said. “When I make a mistake, I get down on myself because I know I can play better than that. Usually I know what I do wrong, too, so it would make me even more upset that it happened in the first place. I feel that I have improved with this, especially since last year.”
“In years past, Karissa would chase some bad pitches and get herself out,” Ingold said. “This year, she’s had a lot more discipline. She’s willing to take a walk. She’s shown more power. The ball seems to be flying off her bat a lot more this year. I think a lot of that is plate discipline — not swinging at bad pitches and looking for something to drive. In the past, when she would strike out or things wouldn’t go well, she would get down and let things carry over. I haven’t seen that this year. We’ve talked a lot to the players that, ‘Hey, good pitchers are going to strike you out every once in a while, or you’re not going to get the good part of the bat on the ball.’ But you’ve got to come back and battle through the next at-bat. You can’t take it out on the field with you.”
That improved mental approach has helped lead Karissa’s balanced hitting this season, not just being limited to being strictly a power source.
“I hope she doesn’t go up there just trying to hit home runs because batting leadoff or near the top of the batting order, what we need her to do is get on base — whether it be a walk or a base hit. She’s done a great job with that,” Ingold said. “I just want her to keep doing what she’s doing. Karissa’s done a nice job in the leadoff role. She’s been getting better at third base and been solid there for the most part.”
Ingold said her defense has also improved tremendously. Her bunt coverages have been solid, making few mistakes and allowing minimal bunt singles along with infield teammates Brittney Enos at first base, pitcher Sydney Eichelberger and second baseman Kylie Terven.
“I’ve been really proud of her at third base,” Ingold said. “She’s made some errors, but she’s made really nice plays after that. She hasn’t compounded the problem by getting down and making a couple errors in a row. … I think she’s improved greatly in the mental part of softball.”
Karissa’s improvement has garnered praise from Ingold, who believes she could end up joining the post-high school ranks with Taw and Kelcie. Also, with Karissa having played last season as a right and left fielder and spending time at shortstop before solidifying herself at the hot corner, that versatility could attract college coaches.
“I think her and Becca have the ability to play softball at the next level, and I think that’s my job is to just do what I can do to help them move on,” Ingold said. “They’re both very versatile. They can play multiple positions and both hit the ball. My goal is just to keep helping them improve.”
She is still a junior, but she does have some focus set on the future.
“(My goal is to) have fun and enjoy my senior year of athletics and academics,” Karissa said, “and planning out my next chapter of life: college.”
Contact Zack Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ZCarp11.