Karie Linsenmeyer was tired late Thursday night.
Seems understandable after coaching five games in two days an hour away from home.
Yet, the Stillwater High softball coach was smiling through the fatigue. Her Lady Pioneers had just clinched their third Class 6A state tournament berth in four years.
They beat regional host Sand Springs in two must-win games Thursday on its own field. The Lady Pioneers won 7-5 before clinching the state berth with a 10-7 victory in the winner-take-all game.
“I’m super proud,” Linsenmeyer said. “It’s been a roller coaster with these girls. I have been telling them over and over what they’re capable of and that I believe in them, and they’re capable of playing high-level softball. They seem to turn it on and off a bit, but they definitely turned it on these past two days, and I’m proud that they rise to the occasion sometimes. It was pretty exciting.”
Stillwater (19-16) entered the postseason on a five-game losing streak, which included a key district loss to Choctaw that kept Stillwater from hosting a regional. Stillwater crushed Muskogee, 16-4, in its regional opener Wednesday night.
In the night cap, Stillwater and Choctaw battled scoreless for seven and a half innings. Then, the home team blasted a two-run, walk-off home run to beat Stillwater 2-0 and take a leg up in the regional.
The Lady Pioneers came back Thursday and eliminated Enid with a 9-0 rout. In the first championship game, Stillwater rallied from a 5-1 deficit after five innings to win 7-5. SHS scored five runs in the sixth inning and one more in the seventh to force the winner-take-all game immediately after.
Stillwater fell behind 2-0 through three innings, but took a 5-2 lead heading into the sixth inning. After Choctaw posted five runs in the sixth, Stillwater followed suit, taking a 10-7 lead. The Lady Pioneers held on to the win game, despite posting five errors – one more than Choctaw.
“The one thing you can take from it is our girls never quit and never lost hope,” Linsenmeyer said. “Their resolve was tremendous. Out motto all year was ‘The strong never quit,’ and they never quit.”
The 6A state tournament will begin Thursday at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City. The bracket will be announced Monday.
“I think we can compete with anybody,” Linsenmeyer said. “We lost 12-2 to Sand Springs earlier in the year. It’s just whether or not they want to hook up. We had some errors and things that didn’t go our way, but all in all they were really into it. We made some really good plays – a little bit of everything.”
Follow News Press sports reporter Jimmy Gillispie on Twitter @jgillispie_stw for updates on Stillwater High athletics.