The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year is the type of player who rarely wins a major award. She does not cut an imposing figure in the pitcher's circle and is not a middle of the order presence who will erase a four-run deficit with a single swing.
Sabrina Rabin is instead a true slapper. In a sport that celebrates its sluggers, Rabin is a speedy table-setter, the catalyst of an offense that relies on people being on base for the big bats to drive in runs. During her first season of collegiate softball, Rabin led the Big Ten in stolen bases, ranked second in runs scored, third in batting and fourth in total hits during conference play.
In the annals of Big Ten history, the number of leadoff batters who have been named the conference's Rookie of the Year can be counted on one hand. The number of pure slappers is even fewer—to the point that Rabin may be the only one to ever win the honor, and is at the very least the first in the last 25 years.
So good is Rabin at her craft that her play demands attention, siphoning off the glory generally given to home run hitters and RBI machines. She is a true leadoff artist with muscle control and finesse as finely tuned as a concert pianist -- or a figure skater, which is what Rabin was before picking up a bat and glove and falling in love with the game of softball.
"I skated from the first to the fifth grade," Rabin said. "I went to competitions, had music and programs, outfits, makeup and everything. I got all the way up to the axel, but I was never able to do that one."
For Rabin, the sport of competitive skating was a family affair. Her sister and brother also skated, all stopping around the same time. Her brother, Eric, went on to play hockey, Sabrina took up softball.
"Skating built up my legs and gave me really good balance," Rabin said. "I'm sure it helped me with my speed, and it at least got me in great shape."
Speed is Rabin's weapon on the softball diamond. Her .394 batting average a year ago came courtesy of a sprint up the first-base line that many left-side infielders simply could not answer. Once at first base, Rabin swiped 28 bases, each one punctuated by her signature pop-up slide.
After one weekend of play in the 2016 season, Rabin leads the entire conference in runs and steals once again.
While she's obviously an excellent softball player, Rabin freely admits she also was "pretty good" on the ice and that she collected "some trophies here and there." Success is a common thread that runs through all of her endeavors.
Rabin already has one major award in her college career and also helped lead Northwestern into the NCAA Tournament last season. While some of the skills and much of the athleticism she honed competing as a skater have translated somehow to softball, there is one thing that has not.
"Skating is probably why I don't wear makeup anymore," Rabin said.
Running up the line, she's too fast to tell anyway.
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