Ouellette proving to be a trusty leadoff batter for Roughriders

When a third baseman lines up behind the bag, Tanner Ouellette sees that as an invitation to do some damage. And so far this season, the Dickinson Roughriders' shortstop has been making a lot of teams pay for their mistakes."If the third baseman'...

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Dickinson’s Tanner Ouellette, left, high-fives Eli Jung after scoring a run against Spearfish (S.D.) June 24 at Southside Ballpark and Astoria Field. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

When a third baseman lines up behind the bag, Tanner Ouellette sees that as an invitation to do some damage.
And so far this season, the Dickinson Roughriders’ shortstop has been making a lot of teams pay for their mistakes.
“If the third baseman’s sitting back and the situation’s right,” Ouellette said, “I’ll lay (a bunt) down anytime.”
At the top of the order for a majority of the summer - he’s only hit lower than that twice in 35 games - Ouellette is sporting a .323 average and a .438 on-base percentage, both of which are in the top four on the team.
For a leadoff hitter, those are the numbers head coach Stephen Greenwood wants to see.
“You need to have a leadoff batter that you trust, first of all, that’s going to go up there and try to see some pitches, get the count deep,” he said. “The game, from an offensive standpoint, is so much easier if you get that leadoff guy on. You have so many more options of scoring a run - the pressure totally goes onto the pitcher and the defense to buckle down.”
Ouellette leads the team in hits - with 32 - and he has failed to reach base safely in just seven games this summer.
“It feels good because I know I’m doing something for the team,” Ouellette said. “I know I’m contributing.”
Ouellette’s presence extends to the defense as well, where he has shown he’s more than reliable with the leather.
“I was talking with my dad over the Fourth of July weekend and was saying we legit have three shortstops that can play that position at an extremely high level any game,” said Greenwood, referring to Ouellette, Lucas Jones and Cam Jorda. “If I have Lucas on the mound, I don’t lose anything with Tanner at shortstop. He makes the routine plays and he makes the exceptional plays.”

In the batter’s box, though, is where most would notice Ouellette’s influence on the game.
“He can get on base in a number of different ways,” second baseman Benson Kramer said. “He’s drawn a lot of walks this year, he’s worked on his drag bunting a lot - he’s getting pretty good at that - and even just base hits, really, he’s hitting very well this summer.”
Ouellette’s blazing speed means that the drag bunt is always available out of his toolbag.
“I’ve been around the game long enough to know that he’s one of the better bunters that I’ve seen,” Greenwood said. “Honestly, if the third baseman even knows he’s going to be drag bunting, (Ouellette) still has an opportunity to get on base because he places the ball so perfectly on that (third base) line. … Depends on the situation, but it’s usually a green light for him on the bunt.”
Ouellette is afforded such freedom, Greenwood said, because of his awareness of where the defense is lined up and what would work best for the team in a given at-bat. The drag bunt is then usually in the back of his mind.
“It depends on how I’m hitting throughout the game and if I’m feeling it,” Ouellette said. “If I’m not hitting well, I’ll try to lay one down because it gets my confidence back up and it gets my head in the game.”
Jones added: “He keeps the defense on their toes. They don’t know if he’s going to bunt, and he can get a base knock and hit the gap. He can do a lot for us. … He’s a big threat. He always sets the tone for us.”
Setting the tone comes with the territory of being the leadoff guy, but it’s a role Ouellette embraces.
“It’s definitely a difficult role because you’re going up against the pitcher for the first time and you have to watch some pitches, so you get down in the count, and you have to barrel one up and put it in play, and you have to relay feedback to the team on what the pitcher’s like,” Ouellette said. “It’s kind of a thrill going up there the first time and just trying to figure out what’s coming because you have no idea.”
If that third baseman is back, though, everybody should know what’s coming.

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