The Rock Creek softball team has been to state before, but this season, the Mustangs knew the path would be more difficult.
The Mustangs have been regulars at the Class 3A state tournament in Manhattan. This year, however, they moved to 4A.
It didn’t matter to Rock Creek.
The Mustangs again find themselves in the state tournament and will face De Soto Thursday at 7 p.m. in Salina. Rock Creek is the No. 5 seed with a 17-4 overall record.
“We have and have had 4A schools on our schedule for years,” Mustangs coach Jeri Brummett said this week. “Our strength is our relentlessness. We set early goals to win the (Mid-East League), win regionals and get a top-three finish at state. This group of 15 players is one of the most enjoyable to work with because they work so very hard, and stay motivated, while enjoying their teammates.
“They have a never-give-up kind of attitude that is contagious amongst them.”
It’s also a group that has set records this season.
The Mustangs set records in pitching wins (13), RBIs (192), home runs (16), runs scored (212), and are knocking on the door of hits and stolen bases marks.
Not bad for a group that was supposed to struggle in a larger classification.
“(I’m) beyond proud… elated for their hard work to pay off,” Brummett said. “One freshman, eight sophomores, one junior, and five seniors contributing. It’s not so much a shock at 4A — just a humbling feeling to be currently ranked at fifth of 64 as a small fish in a big waterhole.”
“Our schedule always lends itself to having to play hard and compete each and every night.”
Brummett is confident her team is ready for the task.
“We will potentially face a better caliber pitcher in some of the 4A teams,” she said. “We are returning two-thirds of our state runner-up roster to this, and is a back-to-back experience for them, which is the first-ever back to back state appearance for Rock Creek athletics.
“I would hope they are all familiar with the format and atmosphere. Traveling to Salina to Bill Burke and staying over, rather than a short bus trip to Manhattan for 3A state will be different — not challenging — just different.”
The Mustangs earned their state appearance despite starting the season slow. That makes Brummett proud.
“These girls have earned this opportunity,” she said. “Starting 1-3 in the year and having some growing pains… we’ve faced many challenges.
“(But), so long as we face them together, and as a team, we’ll be golden.”