The St. Paul Lady Cardinals and Sacred Heart Indianettes refuse to become jaded about appearing in the TAPPS State Softball Tournament.
St. Paul's Jessica Valis leads the Lady Cardinals into today's TAPPS Class 2A semifinal against Bryan St. Joseph. Victoria Advocate photo
The Lady Cardinals have made 15 appearances and have made it to the state tournament for the last 14 years. In that span, St. Paul has won eight championships in Class 1A or 2A, including last year's 1-0 win over Sacred Heart in the 2A final.
The Indianettes have made 11 appearances, including the last five seasons. Sacred Heart has won five 1A or 2A titles and last won the title in 2003 over St. Paul.
Another championship showdown is in the minds of the district rivals, but they have to survive today's semifinals first.
Sacred Heart (13-11) will face Waco Texas Christian at 10 a.m. at the Waco ISD Field No. 1 while St. Paul (19-6) will face Bryan St. Joseph at 4 p.m. at Field No. 2. The championship game will be Saturday at Belton's Mary Hardin-Baylor at 4 p.m.
"It feels great every year," Sacred Heart coach Pat Henke said. "Every year is a challenge to be there and we've been there five years in a row.
"Our sole focus is on Waco Texas Christian," he added. "They have eight starters returning and they gave us all we wanted last year. They are a very solid team. The pitcher does a great job of changing speeds and that concerns me because pitchers like that give us trouble."
Sacred Heart took a 6-3 win over Waco Texas Christian in the semifinals.
"We have to win the first game first and if it happens, it happens," Henke said of the possible matchup between Sacred Heart and St. Paul. "I fully expect them to be there. If it happens that we meet them again, so be it."
St. Paul coach Gilbert Price echoes the sentiments of Henke.
"Right now we're just taking it one game at a time," he said. "I want to get there (the final) for the girls. I'm looking forward to it. I haven't won one and I don't know how. But I told them they know how. They know how it feels to win it and I just want to help them win another state softball championship."
Neither coach is plotting any big moves for the semifinals or finals, but both are concentrating their efforts on their own teams.
"I know there will be nerves and jitters from being at the state tournament," Price said. "Everyone will have them. There will be jitters no matter what we do or how you approach the game. It'll happen and it'll happen to this team. I think it will help that they've been there.
"We're not going to worry about the other team," he added. "We'll worry about us - hitting the ball, playing good defense and getting good pitching from our pitcher - and see what happens. The main thing is to play loose and stay comfortable."
The high level of competition is thrilling for the coaches as well as the players.
"You want to compete and be the best and that's what it takes at any level to be the state champ," Henke said. "I really enjoy the competition.
"The part of coaching I enjoy the most is when I see that look in the players' eyes that they are not going to be denied and then they go out there and do it," he added.
"It's great to see that look in a kid's eye and then for them to get the job done."
TAPPS STATE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT Class 2A Semifinals Hallettsville Sacred Heart (13-11) vs. Waco Texas Christian Today, 10:00am, Waco ISD Field No. 1. Shiner St. Paul (19-6) vs. Bryan St. Joseph Today, 4:00pm, Waco ISD Field No. 2.