It's been a little more than a week since high school softball season started, but Payton Romines already has the full attention of pitchers everywhere.
Through seven games, the senior slugger is batting .625, has two home runs and leads the state with 13 RBIs. She's also slugging an absurd 1.083, and teams are starting to notice.
"I wouldn't pitch to Payton if I were an opposing coach, especially in a late-game situation," Air Academy coach Chris Hernez said. "But the great thing is we have hitters in the 5-7 spots who will make teams pay for that."
Romines bats third in the Kadets' order, with Julia Elbert, another senior heavy-hitter, behind Romines in the clean-up spot.
The duo has been demolishing any and all pitching it has faced so far during Air Academy's 6-1 start.
"As captains, Julia and I wanted to be positive role models on the rest of the team, and we have to make sure the younger girls get built into the same players as us, or better," Romines said. "When they pitch around us, it pushes those girls behind us in the order to be better, and gives them opportunities to make a name for themselves."
Romines admits that she's been a work in progress the past few years. As a freshman and sophomore, she played too uptight, and put a lot of pressure on herself to succeed.
However, she's matured quite a bit in the past year, and it's showing with a huge start to her senior season.
"Payton has an air of leadership that she hasn't had before," Hernez said. "I usually don't name captains, but I'm glad I did this year with Payton and Julia. Payton is having fun and playing loose, and when she does that, it's scary for the other team."
Romines is still getting used to being treated as an elite power hitter, and says it's an unreal feeling since she never was a power hitter as a younger player.
Now that the hard work has paid off and she's being noticed as a dangerous player at the plate, she's just fine with that.
"It's a compliment, and I don't get frustrated by being walked," Romines said. "But when you hit the ball really smooth, you don't even feel the ball hit the bat. You just see it go over the fence, and there's nothing better than that."
Anchored by Romines, Air Academy just won the Triple Crown Tournament in Fort Collins, where it went 4-1 and crushed 5A Rocky Mountain 12-2 in the title game.
Hernez isn't looking forward to having to find a replacement for Romines after this season is over.
"She's been huge in building this program, and losing her is going to set us back," Hernez said. "The other players complement Payton and Julia, but things won't be the same without them next year. We're going to enjoy this season, and get the most we can out of it."
Goal No. 1 for the Kadets is another 4A PPAC title, but Romines has bigger aspirations.
"We have a great group of girls who all push each other, and we're closer than we've ever been," she said. "We really think we can be a state championship team."