MARTENSDALE, Ia. -- Nicole Shutt's passion for hitting is a year-long obligation. Shutt, a Martensdale-St. Marys sophomore, has hit .667 this season -- the highest recorded batting average in state history.
As a young girl, she would go outside with her father to work on her swing in winter.
"I used to go when there was still snow on the ground," Shutt said.
Shutt has collected 66 hits in 99 at bats this season. The left-handed first baseman has 11 doubles, five triples and three home runs. Her average surpassed the .655 mark by Brittany Roby of Twin Cedars of Bussey from last season. According to records compiled by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, no other batter is known to have topped .636 for a season.
"I started off the year and thought, 'Wow, I'm having a pretty good start,' and I just continued from there," Shutt said.
hutt will put her numbers on the line in this week's state tournament. No. 2 Martensdale-St. Marys (30-2) will play New London in the Class 1-A state tournament at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. What makes her a great hitter?
She's not sure she can answer that. Shutt is athletic and intelligent. She's a four-sport athlete and has a grade-point average that surpasses a 4.0. She's got good speed and gets an extra step to first base since she's a lefty. Shutt, who bats third in the team's lineup, has driven in 56 runs and scored 49 times. Her father, Dave, gave her a helping hand with hitting when she started. Father would pitch, daughter would hit.
"We used to go up to the Little League field in St. Marys," Shutt said.
The lessons she learned early still apply -- keep your eye on the ball and pick up the pitch as it comes off the pitcher's hip. She said she doesn't swing for the fences or aim for gaps in the opponents' defense. She tries to make contact. Shutt does have occasional power, though. She hit two home runs against Des Moines Christian earlier this season. Every hit sends a message. She swings a black bat with pink lettering, a "Hope" bat that is designed for cancer awareness. Shutt said she hasn't had a family member with breast cancer, but she likes the cause that is promoted.
Shutt's career average is .539. Every at-bat makes her focus.
"It used to make me nervous," Shutt said. "It still makes me nervous, I guess."