Mustang seniors back in tourney

By Brady Bauman

The Rock Creek softball team has a group of seniors that accomplished things early in their career.

The six seniors advanced to the Class 3A state tourmanent as freshmen.

Those seniors will bookend their high school careers with their second state appearance, as the Mustangs get set to face No. 3-seed Goodland on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Twin Oaks Softball Complex in Manhattan.

The Mustangs — the No. 6 seed — enter the tournament field with a 17-6 overall record.

“This is a special group of kids,” Rock Creek softball coach Jeri Brummett said this week. “They’ve played hard all season.

“These seniors started at Twin Oaks and now they will finish at Twin Oaks. It’s very cool… very cool.”

Brummett said this senior class is the first in the history of the program to make two trips to state in their time at Rock Creek.

“Everyone knows their role,” she said. “Everyone is willing to do their part and they don’t really care who gets the credit. They just all work really well together, and that carries on to the other nine (on the roster). As long as the work gets done, and the job gets done, everyone just fulfills their role.”

Senior shortstop Bailey Elliot said communication has been key.

“We all get along really well,” she said. “We all set our problems aside, even if they do come up. But we’ve also got a lot of double plays this year, so communication has been important — we never stop working for outs.”

Senior first baseman Jessi Snapp said there is a lot of pride going into this weekend, especially for her fellow upperclassmen.

“It is really exciting,” she said. “All the seniors are really proud to bookend it. In our freshman year we really didn’t understand the importance of it, but going in as seniors it really means a lot to us. We are really proud of our team.”

Snapp said the most important learning moment she took from the state appearance in 2009 was the mental aspect of the game.

“We learned to not over-think things,” she said. “You just have to play your game.”

The defense, Snapp continued, has been a foundation for this year’s season.

“Our defense has been the best aspect of our game,” she said. “It takes pressure off our pitchers, knowing they have someone to rely on, and it takes pressure off our batters, as well.”

The Mustangs have battled through all types of games this season.

Rock Creek’s top offensive output came in the second game of a sweep at Southeast of Saline with a 16-6 win April 20. In the first game of last week’s regional, Rock Creek won in five innings with a 11-0 score against Bennington.

The Mustangs have won close games, too — including a 4-3 win against Marysville in the regional championship. In that game, senior pitcher Katie Hodges picked up her ninth win of the year.

“They are experienced and well-rounded,” Brummett said. “There’s a bitterness about losing that they don’t like, so they are pretty competitive.

“We’re not the fastest team, we’re not the best batting average team… we don’t have the fastest pitchers, but we have kids that just don’t like to lose. They compete. We’re very well-rounded, and we have depth.”

Brummett said missing the state tournament the last two seasons may have added to her team’s motivation this season.

“When you make it to state when you are freshmen and experience that, there is that expectation,” said Brummett, who is in her 13th season with the Mustangs and will coach in her third state tournament. “They’ve met it this year, and it’s been a group of 15. The seniors have been leaders, but we couldn’t have done it without the other nine.”

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