As a catcher, Nadia Trujillo is used to walking from the plate back to the dugout. But she hates making that trip with a bat in her hand.
"It feels like a missed opportunity," the Sterling sophomore said.
When Trujillo was first learning the game of softball, she was bombarded with a lot of rules and, for whatever reason, the dropped-third-strike rule stuck out in particular.
In her young mind, she figured she could get around that aspect of the game by just making contact with the ball. She didn't know it then, but that thinking would stick with her throughout her career.
"Since then, I just had to make contact any way I could," Trujillo said. "I'm not much of a strikeout person."
It seems simple enough. After all, no one likes to strikeout.
But the Sterling sophomore has based her entire approach to the game around that idea, and the results have been quite amazing, really.
In her team-leading 128 at-bats this season, Trujillo has struck out just twice.
It's crazy to think about those numbers, as some hitters regularly strike out two times per game.
Trujillo went the first 34 games – the entire regular season and one playoff game – without striking out, and her success has skyrocketed her up the lineup. She started the season batting eighth, and now is the No. 4 hitter on Sterling's state-bound team.
She owns the fourth-best batting average on the team (.344), and has 11 doubles, second only to No. 3 hitter Karlie Mellott's 16. Her 44 hits place her third behind leadoff hitter Erin Stroup (50) and Mellott (44).
With the strong hitting talent at the top of the Golden Warriors' order, Trujillo almost always gets to bat with someone on base, and those runners know they have to be ready to move because Trujillo will put the ball in play.
As Sterling's table-setter, Stroup has quickly learned to stay aware with Trujillo at the plate.
"Nadia handles a lot of the good pitches, and knows how to see them and hit them," Stroup said. "She has really good at-bats.
"I know that I have to be ready to move, because there is a really good chance the ball will be in play."
The tough pitching Sterling has faced in the playoffs is even more reason to appreciate what Trujillo is able to do at the plate. Some pitches she faces blur by my eyes as I watch from behind the backstop, but she still finds success, no matter the pitcher.
So what's her secret?
She does the simple, and often boring, things that a lot of players don't want to do.
"I hit off the tee a lot," Trujillo said. "I also work on my form. Not necessarily hitting or swinging form, but just seeing the ball. It helps me a lot when I actually get up to the plate and do it for real.
"I'm really good at seeing the ball now."
Another aspect of the game that Trujillo excels at is her approach at the plate with two strikes.
A lot of batters panic, but for Trujillo, her readiness to hit soars with two strikes.
"Most people I know feel a lot of pressure with two strikes," Trujillo said. "I feel more confident and ready to hit, because I know with two strikes, I have to hit anything close, and I am just that much more prepared to do it."
Trujillo's two strikeouts came in the postseason. Rock Falls pitcher Michaela Ward got Trujillo swinging in the fourth inning of the Rock Falls Regional championship game.
Her second strikeout came one game later, when she struck out swinging against Burlington Central in the second inning of the Marengo Sectional semifinal.
"It's really impressive," Sterling coach Becki Edmondson said of Trujillo's two strikeouts. "She always makes solid contact. We knew she had that ability, and it's invaluable."