Grace Gehl swings the bat during Rock Creek’s regional doubleheader last week. Gehl and the Lady Mustangs will play in the Class 3A state tournament this week in Manhattan. Rock Creek’s first game will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, when it takes on the tournament’s top seed, Cheney High.

Rock Creek softball ended the 2021 regular season with four straight losses. The postseason has been a different story for the Lady Mustangs.

After defeating top-seeded Rossville 4-2 in the regional title game last week, the Mustangs (15-8) are preparing for the 3A tournament, which will be held this week in Manhattan.

This marks the seventh state appearance Rock Creek’s history.

“We are not reflecting on the way the regular season ended,” Rock Creek head coach Jeri Brummett said. “Right now, we are ready for anything.”

Despite being the eighth seed in the eight-team tournament, the team has not emphasized the number in front of the name.

“I don’t care how you get to the state tournament,” Brummett said. “We are not scared, and the number means nothing.”

Rock Creek aims to surprise, and the team already has embraced the underdog role.

“I sure hope we can surprise some people,” Brummett said. “Every state experience we have had, we have been the underdog. But anything can happen. In my 20 years of coaching, I’ve seen it all.”

Brummett said the key to her team’s late-season success isn’t complicated.

“Our ability to play as a team has been our greatest strength,” Brummett said. “It is what is going to get us through.”

Rock Creek faces a tough challenge in its opening game: top-seeded Cheney High School, which enters this week 22-1 on the season.

Cheney’s lone came at the hands of Belle Plaine on April 22 in the second game of a doubleheader. Belle Plaine is no slouch: It’s 19-4 this season and is one of the eight teams to reach the Class 2-1A tournament.

As far as Rock Creek’s preparations for the week, Brummett said the team is keeping it simple.

According to Brummett, the team will practice on artificial turf and maintain a good routine before the tournament’s opening game.

First pitch for the Rock Creek/Cheney game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at Field A at the Twin Oaks Softball Complex.

The semifinal, third-place and championship games will be played Friday.