2020 Baylor Invitational

The Story Of Minnesota's Own Natalie DenHartog

The Story Of Minnesota's Own Natalie DenHartog

How Natalie DenHartog seized her opportunities to become one of the nation's leading freshmen hitters.

Apr 29, 2019 by Scott Schultz
The Story Of Minnesota's Own Natalie DenHartog

Every coach, in every sport at every level, will tell their bench players that it’s important to make the most of their playing time and that it’s the best way to work their way into the lineup.

When Natalie DenHartog stepped to the plate to pinch hit in the fourth inning of Minnesota’s opener against North Florida, the freshman tallied her first collegiate career RBI courtesy of a hit-by-pitch from NF hurler Kayla Cruz.


After starting the season in that pinch hitter role, DenHartog worked her way into the starting lineup the second week of the season after launching home runs against Notre Dame and Florida State in back-to-back games. 

While not the most impressive of beginnings, she quickly powered her way into the cleanup role in the Gophers’ lineup.

DenHartog has taken that “old-school” advice to heart launching 15 home runs with a .404 average and 57 RBIs leading the Gopher offense in all three categories. Her RBI total also tops in the Big Ten.

Opening the season as a pinch-hitter and making the way into the lineup is impressive enough, but to then be toward the top of the stat columns in the major hitting categories in the Big Ten requires some level of confidence.

“I think I was always confident I could do it, it was more of getting big in big moments,” said DenHartog.

And speaking of those big moments, Wednesday night at Madison, Wisconsin would qualify.

Down 3-1 after four innings during the nightcap of Minnesota’s mid-week twin-bill with the Badgers, the Gophers’ offense plated five runs in the fifth and four in the sixth to run away with the comeback victory in game two - a surge that was capped by a DenHartog grand slam that put the game out of reach.


DenHartog’s contribution has been a welcome surprise to Minnesota head coach Jamie Trachsel.

“You don’t really expect this kind of production from any freshman, in fairness,” said Trachsel. “For her to continue to grow as she has through the season, Katie [Rietkovich] has done a great job with her to become a hitter that can hit for power, but can hit for average and can hit both sides of the plate.”

“Being around this program and these coaches and teammates I was never not confident, or not expecting to succeed,” said DenHartog, echoing coach Trachsel’s praise of the Gophers’ coaching staff. 

“[The coaches] helped a lot with mindset just getting tougher, understand for what pitches to hunt, or what mindset to have in the field,” said DenHartog. “When to be confident, and when to just take one thing at a time.”

A two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice thus far, DenHartog first gained league attention when the Gophers picked up a pair of top-10 victories at the Longhorn Invitational back in March. Over that weekend, she led the team with a 1.000 slugging percentage and nine RBIs.

DenHartog also made an impact in her first ever home series at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium and was named Freshman of the Week for the second time after hitting .600 with a 1.000 slugging percentage in a series against Purdue.

Making the move to Minneapolis, DenHartog had plenty of success to build on as a Minnesota All-State First-Team in her senior season at Hopkins High School. She was a two-time All-Metro and All-Section, and three-time All-Conference selection.


To translate that success into Big Ten softball success, DenHartog didn’t change much in her routine.

“I took the same approach, it’s just a different stage,” said DenHartog. “I always have been someone who gets up to the plate and tries to hit it really hard, but with some great college coaches I’ve been able to improve and cover more of the plate.”

“I’m still the same player, just improved being around such a great program,” said DenHartog.

But Trachsel sees things a bit differently when it comes to her freshman slugger. 

“She’s a player that’s willing to work for what she wants,” said Trachsel. “Every time we came back [home] she went in and hit on her own on a day off, and it’s paid out dividends for her.”

“Becoming a complete all-around hitter and what she’s added to this program this year as a freshman has been incredible,” added Trachsel.

DenHartog was named a Schutt Sports/NFCA Freshman of the Year Top-25 finalist by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). She is one of three players from the Big Ten represented on the finalist list. The top-10 finalists will be named on Thursday, May 9, 2019.