Gophers left fielder Natalie DenHartog has appeared in 36 of Minnesota's 37 games this season. It didn't take long for the freshman to make an impact for the Gophers offensively.
In her fourth career game, which was against Notre Dame, on Feb. 16, DenHartog hit her first collegiate home run, a three-run shot, in Minnesota's 10-0 victory over the Fighting Irish. Since then, she has driven in at least two runs in nine out of 32 games.
Head coach Jamie Trachsel said DenHartog's success is a result of hard work.
"She's committed [and] dedicated," Trachsel said. "She has a desire to be great, not good. She puts in the work to back that up. She doesn't want what she's not willing to work for."
DenHartog comes from a family of athletes. Her father played three sports at Luther College and is the head coach of the varsity football team at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Her brother played football at Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin-Eau Claire and her sister played softball.
DenHartog said her siblings inspired her to play softball.
"I looked to my older siblings as to where I got into the different sports that I played growing up," DenHartog said. "I started out playing baseball and then I switched to softball [after] watching my sister play. It's been a lot of fun ever since."
The highlight of DenHartog's season so far was on March 23 when she drove in six runs and hit her first career grand slam in Minnesota's 19-5 victory over Maryland. Her first multi-home run game of her career came against Texas Southern on March 8. DenHartog hit a three-run home run in the third inning and a solo home run in the fifth inning.
"She's a force to be reckoned with," right fielder Maddie Houlihan said. "I have all the confidence in the world that she's going to hit the ball hard."
As of this weekend's series against Illinois, DenHartog is third on the Gophers in batting average with .353. She is second in both home runs and RBIs with 11 and 41, respectively. The Gophers can also rely on DenHartog defensively. She has made 13 catches and 12 putouts and has not committed an error.
DenHartog said her goals for the next few games are to contribute at opportune moments and to be a good teammate. She describes herself as a competitive person on the field and in the dugout.
"I show it through being intense," she said. "I know every moment matters and our team does a good job of understanding that and not taking it too hard when things don't go our way."