All in the family [UPDATED]Published 11:23am Wednesday, June 5, 2013 Updated 11:26am Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Sometimes, God puts you in the place that you need to be.
That was the case for the Knudson family nearly 18 years ago when doctors told Kari Jo Knudson that she was carrying twins, but something was not right. Doctors discovered that the babies had a disease known as twin to twin transfusion syndrome. TTTS affects the placenta causing one twin to receive more nutrients than the other.
Luckly, the Knudsons were living in Texas and close to Baylor Hospital, one of the few places that deals with TTTS. After going through a procedure to improve the situation, Kari Jo gave birth to Sadie and Sammie. The girls were three months premature with very low birth weights, but they would overcome their early childhood obstacles and grow into healthy toddlers.
Flash forward to 2013.
Sadie and Sammie are celebrating after defeating the Hawley Nuggets in the Section 8AA playoffs as the Fergus Falls Otters claimed its right to go to the state tournament. And their father and pitching coach could not be prouder.
“It’s been very emotional for me to see them do as well as they have,” Cary Knudson said.
The Knudson twins have posed problems for opposing team’s all season long. Sadie, the Otters ace, starts the game, working her seven pitch repetoire against batters before handing over the reigns to Sammie to close out the game.
Sadie’s boasts the more impressive numbers of the sisters as her 122 and two thirds innings have yielded a 2.00 earned run average and saw her fan 101 batters, while Sammie’s 26 innings of work have seen her strikeout 18.
Several teams have gotten confused during the transition from one girl to the other leading to the timely of opposing hitters to be thrown off.
“Sammie is much faster than I am, so when we make the change it is really difficult for batters,” Sadie said. “For the first couple of minutes, teams have been thrown off and need to get used to seeing a faster pitch.”
But the Knudson legacy extends beyond the twin hurlers as sisters Kelsey and Kayla set the bar for the girls in prior seasons. Kelsey was the first Knudson to toe the rubber for the Otters, bringing the windmill style of pitching to Fergus Falls. Sister Kayla, who the family agrees could have possibly been the best of all four girls from the mound, opted to play infield over firing fastballs.
“When we lived in Texas, Kelsey and my dad learned softball pitching from Coach Mac, who was a great teacher,” Sadie said. “It was nice to have an older sister to look up to and to carry on the traditions she learned from Coach Mac.”
Cary took over the development of the girls working them on a off-season pitching regiment to prepare them for the season and has been aiding with pitchers in Fergus Falls for over 10 years.
“My experience has not been limited to Fergus Falls as I coached my daughter Kelsey in Texas,” Cary said. “I think I have learned enough over the years to help call pitches by how the batters are standing or how they are holding the bat.”
Calling pitches is also in Cary’s blood as he himself was a catcher during his high school days.
Fergus Falls Head Coach Renee Erickson has relied on Cary to help the Otter pitchers during the off-season improve their skills.
“We start in early November and pitch until late March,” Cary said. “I volunteer by helping with the pitchers on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.”
Several kids would not want a parent lingering over them during sports, but the girls believe that having their dad on the coaching staff is a positive, not only for them, but for the entire team.
“He is always there and he is always encouraging,” Sadie said of her dad coaching. “He always wants to win. Even when we are down by a lot of runs he keeps encouraging us to fight back and try to win.”
“All the Knudson girls have had postive qualities,” Fergus Falls softball coach Renee Erickson said. “They all did a nice job and they come from a great family.”
With all the focus on pitching, the girls have been limited in their at bats until this season. “We asked coach Erickson to let us hit this year and she was a little hesistant, but she wanted us to have a little fun,” Sadie added.
The girls have been an added bonus to the back end of the lineup as they deliver a great transition to the top of the order.
Asked which is harder, starting or relieving? “Starting,” Sammie said with a chuckle. “I feel more comfortable coming off the bench and throwing a few innings.” Sadie offered a different perspective. “I don’t believe that either is harder, it’s just a matter of staying strong throughout the game.”
The duo hopes to continue their amazing journey as the Otters will open up the Class AA state tournament against Section 5AA champion Rockford at 1 p.m. at Caswell Park in Mankato.