Kane County Chronicle Athlete of the Week: St. Charles East’s Grace Hautzinger, softball, senior

St. Charles East's Grace Hautzinger

Name: Grace Hautzinger

School: St. Charles East, senior

Sport: Softball

Why she was selected: Across three games last week, the senior went 3-0 in the circle and allowed only one run and struck out 31 batters across 19 innings of work. She also pitched a perfect game against Batavia, recording 13 strikeouts in the game.

Hautzinger was selected the Kane County Chronicle Athlete of the Week in an online vote. Here is her Q&A with sports writer Joel Boenitz.

St. Charles East’s Grace Hautzinger pitches during a game against St. Charles North at St. Charles East on Friday, April 19, 2024.

You went 3-0 in the circle last week, all against conference opponents. How did you feel you performed last week?

Hautzinger: I felt really good. We were coming off of a six-game losing streak so we just needed to go out and play well and win. Against Lake Park, I just went out and had a good mindset and trusted the people behind me and my coaches to defeat a team we lost to earlier in the season. And coming off that win into the game against St. Charles North, our entire mindset was that we just came off of a six-game losing streak, but we aren’t going to play like we did. We’re going to play like we know we can and hit the ball well and pitch well from my standpoint, so that was huge.

The Saints started the week on a six-game losing skid and ended it on a three-game winning streak. What changed for you guys?

Hautzinger: I think that win against Lake Park sparked something in us. For most teams, if you play well, you’re going to win. So I think our team just needed a little pick-me-up and that game definitely did. We’re playing well and everybody’s trusting each other and hitting well and playing defense well. We’re playing probably the best we have all season right now.

You led the Saints in the circle to a 5-1 win over St. Charles North to complete the regular-season sweep. How did it feel to get the sweep against a heated rival like the North Stars?

Hautzinger: It feels good to beat a team that is very strong in every aspect of the game. They’re a really good team. Just on that alone it feels great to beat them, but considering that they’re our biggest rival, it just feels 10 times better because they’re St. Charles North. It’s always like “Oh, North is on the schedule, here’s when we play them.” It’s the biggest rivalry that I know of.

You pitched a five-inning perfect game against Batavia. What was the feeling of getting that final out?

Hautzinger: I didn’t really know it was a perfect game until after the game because I thought I gave up a hit because we started the game Thursday and finished it Friday because of rain. So going into the second day of our game, I was just like, “Oh, we’re just continuing the game.” I didn’t even know they didn’t have a hit.

You’re committed to play for Rollins College starting next season. Why there?

Hautzinger: I went to a camp there in December 2022 and it was a really pretty campus. And I was in my junior year where I had started looking at colleges seriously and when I went to the camp there I just fell in love with it instantly. The coaches are so nice and the players were really welcoming and the campus was beautiful. And then my coach offered me a spot, so I took it.

What will you miss most about playing for St. Charles East?

Hautzinger: I’m definitely going to miss the players. I love my team. I love all of them. And my third baseman, Katie Morgan. We’ve played travel ball together for the past three years, I think, and we played all four years together in high school, so I’m really going to miss her. I’ll also miss the coaches because they’re so funny.

Do you have any superstitions?

Hautzinger: One of my superstitions is that my catcher, Sam Gaca, braids my hair and then I put it into a bun and I have this little ribbon that I’ve had with me all season that I put in. And then every inning when I get to the mound to pitch, coach Jarod Gutesha picks up the ball for me. I will not touch it until he picks it up.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

Hautzinger: My favorite TV show is “White Collar” and then my favorite movie is “Lilo & Stitch.”