For the second year in a row, Katie Trotter will take the field for the state championship game with a smile on her face.
This time, it won't hurt.
Trotter drove in the game's first run and delivered two hits as Williamstown won the Group 4 state title last year with a 2-0 victory over Ridgewood. The junior second baseman wore a protective mask after breaking her jaw the night before in a batting-cage accident.
"We were just talking about that," said Williamstown coach Fred Powell, whose top-ranked team will play Union today at 3 p.m. at Toms River East. "I told her, 'Katie, I'm locking you in a room with a book the night before the game, and I'm sitting outside the door.' "
Trotter was uncertain about her plans. But she was pretty sure they would not include a trip to the batting cage for some extra swings.
She still remembers the aftermath of last year's mishap, although the accident remains a blur.
"I don't even remember getting hit," Trotter said. "The first thing I knew I was on the ground, and there was blood everywhere."
Trotter ended up making late-night visits to a dentist (she lost two teeth) and to a hospital emergency room just hours before taking the field as Williamstown pursued the first state title in the history of its softball program.
She got home after 1 a.m. She was up early the next morning, trying out a new helmet with a protective mask and taking some more swings in the cage before the trip to Toms River.
"I had no choice," Trotter said. "There was no way I was missing that game."
By comparison, Trotter's trip to this year's state finals has been uneventful - other than that two-strike, two-out, three-run home run that she hit in the May 29 sectional final against Toms River East.
That came in the bottom of the 11th inning, with the Braves trailing, 5-3, and down to their last strike.
"Two outs, two strikes, we were down by two runs," Trotter said. "It was pretty awesome. I'm not a home-run hitter. I'm a doubles hitter. But that one went out."
That hit was dramatic but typical for Trotter. She has been the leading hitter over the last two seasons for a team that has gone 47-3 against some of the best competition in the state.
This season, Trotter is batting .500 with 16 doubles and 30 RBIs for Williamstown (21-2), the No. 1 team in the Inquirer Top 10. She also has a 20-2 pitching record with a 1.00 ERA and 115 strikeouts.
"I can't say enough about her," Powell said. "She's carried us through. We've been the No. 1 team, and everybody shows up to play you when you're No. 1. We've been in a lot of tough situations, and Katie has always come through for us."
With dominating pitcher Rachael Matreale on the mound last season, Williamstown won all five tournament games by shutout. This year has been different, as Trotter is more of a control pitcher who relies on movement, location, and a reliable defense.
"Our defense has been great," said Trotter, who has committed to play softball at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Powell called Trotter one of the most pleasant players he had coached.
"She doesn't have an angry bone in her body," Powell said.
So it's a good bet that Trotter will be smiling when she takes the field for the state championship game this afternoon.
That's nothing new. The change is that she won't have a crazy story to tell about an errant line drive, two missing teeth, a busted jaw, and a late-night visit to the emergency room.
She would rather just quietly win another state title.