Softball, Sports

Tautalafua sets new LBSU home run standard

Darian Tautalafua became the most prolific home run hitter in Long Beach State softball history and only the most important people in her life were paying attention.

Tautalafua’s teammates were not the only ones reminding her about the record. Her father, who is also her personal hitting coach, began making her hit off a tee at the parks next to her house when she was five years old. Tautalafua said her father was her biggest cheerleader.

“He was like ‘you’re only one away!’ and [I started] thinking about [the record],” Tautalafua said. “He wanted me to get it last year. He’s super [supportive]. He was like ‘you need to put your name in the record books!’ blah blah blah. I pretty much owe all my success to him. He taught me everything I know.”

The junior infielder crushed an outside pitch to right-center field in the third inning against New Mexico State on March 13 in the San Diego Classic ll for her 31st career home run, the most in school history.

“It’s kind of unreal,” Tautalafua said. “I didn’t know what to think about it. I didn’t think I was going to get it.”

All-conference infielder Nalani St. Germain established the record in 2013. That year, Tautalafua earned Big West Freshman of the Year after hitting .288 with 13 home runs and 46 runs batted in. Head coach Kim Sowder saw Tautalafua’s potential in high school.

“She was a great hitter,” Sowder said. “She’s been a great hitter for a long time, for as long as I’ve known her. I think she was on six or seven championship teams in a row, and she’s always been in the heart of the lineup for those teams.”

Her numbers reflect the progress she has made in just over two years at LBSU. She’s hitting .286, up 50 points from last year’s batting average, with an on base percentage (.400) almost 60 points higher than in 2014.

Tautalafua said at times her prodigious power has presented issues with her swing and mental approach. Throughout her career she has tried too hard to hit home runs instead settling for base hits. She said this year she has made it a point to get on base more.

Sowder said the biggest development she has seen in Tautalafua is not her hitting, but it is rather her maturity that has allowed her reach her potential.

“Mentally she doesn’t beat herself up as much when she has a tough at-bat,” Sowder said. “She’s really learning to kind of let it go and it carry over to the next at-bat. She’s tough on herself and has high expectations at the plate. I think she’s grown in that area.”

Sowder said Tautalafua has always had this kind of power, even going back to high school when she recruited her. Already more than halfway through her collegiate career, Tautalafua has plenty of time to develop into a complete all-around player.

“Offensively, I think just being more consistent,” Sowder said. “She’s gotten more disciplined and hits the outside pitch just as well as the inside pitch. When she struggles, she usually knows what’s causing it in terms of mechanics or timing.”

Tautalafua is far from done setting new offensive records at LBSU. She is on pace to break the RBI record and set the single season home run record of 15. With another year to go, Tautalafua’s place in 49er softball history appears solidified.

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