Nikki Faust is standing on the pitcher's mound, leaning in to take the sign from her catcher. She's thinking to herself, "Call the change-up, call the change-up." Her catcher quickly flashes the signal for a change-up.
Faust is near giddy describing her sometimes telepathic relationship with her catcher. But that relationship is not surprising.
Aside from being battery mates on every team they've played on for the last six years, the duo has known each other all their lives. Nikki and her catcher, Amber Faust, are fraternal twins. They are nearly inseparable best friends.
Together, the Fausts have helped put Cox Mill on Cabarrus County's softball map in their senior year, leading the Chargers to victories in their first seven games of the season.
The sisters started with recreational league softball in Charlotte at the age of 7 and graduated to tournament ball when they turned 10. That first season with their tournament team, they didn't win a single game.
"I played first base," said Nikki. "Our pitcher would walk everyone and there wasn't anything I could do about it. That's when I was like, 'I'm going to be a pitcher and I'm going to do something about it.'"
But before Nikki was a pitcher, Amber was a catcher. Amber jokes that her position was "bench" that first year and that it was a tad insulting that the starting catcher used to use all of Amber's equipment.
"Every time I got to bat," said Amber. "I would just swing at three balls and strike out."
The Fausts continued to improve at their respective positions. Their father, Bob, coached some of their teams, while mother Paulette was instrumental in signing them up for softball camps.
After two years of middle school at Lincoln Charter, the Fausts enrolled at Northwest Cabarrus High for their freshman year. Their sister, Rebecca, was the starting catcher on the Trojans' varsity team.
Amber, who is an hour older than her twin, and Nikki played on two undefeated junior varsity teams, including their sophomore year when Bruce Hurt was their coach. The following year, all of them ended up at Cox Mill.
"It's hard to distinguish one from the other," said Hurt, now Cox Mill's varsity coach. "They are always together. Even at practice, they warm up together. When they go to hitting stations, they hit together. In the hallway between classes I see them. They're in the same classes and they move between classes together."
In Cox Mill's first season, the Fausts led the Chargers to a 9-11 record, going 6-8 in the South Piedmont Conference. Both were named all-conference.
Nikki led the team at the plate, batting a .422 average, while also averaging nine strikeouts per game. She was named the Chargers' defensive player of the year and team MVP.
Amber hit .325, led the team in runs batted in and averaged throwing out one would-be base stealer per game, earning her the nickname "The Eraser". She was selected as Cox Mill's offensive player of the year.
The Fausts' relationship may be even stronger off the field. Out of their four classes this semester, they are in three of them together. Last semester, they were a perfect four-for-four (to use a softball term).
As they were considering options for college, Amber liked Belmont Abbey, partly because she could play softball there. So, in twin-like fashion, Nikki followed suit. Nikki was the first to declare occupational therapy as a major, though, prompting Amber to do the same.
They may be fraternal twins, but they sure do have a lot of identical tendencies.