As the Fannett-Metal softball team was leaving the field at Saint Francis University on Monday, lugging coolers and equipment bags after just defeating Chartiers-Houston 7-2 in a state semifinal playoff game, one of the Tigers' freshman starters posed a question to assistant coach Rick Lauthers.
"So, how many games do we have left?" she asked.
Of course, the answer is: "One."
And it's a big one - Fannett-Metal (23-4) will play Friday morning at 10 in the PIAA Class A championship game against Southern Columbia (23-3) at Penn State's Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Lauthers said, "Maybe it's good that some of these girls don't know how big this is."
In some ways, F-M is trying to keep it that way.
The team is not going to charter a big bus (a school bus will work just fine), they are not going up to State College the night before and stay in a motel, and there will not be an elaborate meal before the game.
"We talked to the girls about it," Lauthers said, "and we all thought we should keep to a similar routine. So we'll just get some breakfast sandwiches and sleep on the bus. We're just going to try to go about our business."
So far, the low-key approach has worked well.
Tigers head coach Stewart Miller said, "The girls were super (Monday). They didn't get rattled by everything, even though we did make some mistakes."
The coaching staff is hoping the team can play just as calmly on Friday, despite all the hoopla of a state
Miller said, "The atmosphere will be more overwhelming, but at least some of these girls know the field, since we played there last year."
The Tigers beat Claysburg-Kimmel in a first-round PIAA playoff game at Penn State last June.
Lauthers said, "I've gotten a little insight into how big a production a state final is, because I worked with some of the Greencastle kids (G-A won a Class AAA title in 2009). That might help."
A LITTLE HISTORY: Fannett-Metal is making its first appearance in a PIAA final in any sport. The closest the Tigers had gotten before was the softball team in 2005, when it lost in the semifinals to Minersville, 9-0.
"I think it's amazing for our school to play in a state championship game," F-M athletic director Greg Best said. "It's not something we're known for."
It's also not something District 5 teams are known for.
The last time a District 5 team was crowned a PIAA champion was in 1991, when the McConnellsburg girls basketball team turned the trick.
In the 21 years since then, only one other team from District 5 has advanced to a state final - the North Star girls volleyball team lost in the Class AA final in 2008.
Best said, "This is special for our school, but for our district, too. I've had a lot of athletic directors call me and wish us well and some of them said they'll be going up to watch the game and support us."
GETTING BEHIND THE TEAM: Best said he's had numerous calls from community members, basically asking, "What can we do to help?"
"The phone's been ringing off the hook, but that's a good thing," he said. "We expect a really nice crowd to go to the game. We're getting shirts made up and we've had over 150 ordered so far."
Fannett-Metal is also chartering a bus for fans who wish to attend the game. The bus ticket costs $3 and admission to the game is $8 for adults, $4 for students through grade 12 and pre-kindergarten children are free.
Miller said, "I talked to a lot of people last night. Everybody seems to be pretty excited about it and a lot of people are planning to go up to the game."
Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and email@example.com or on Twitter @EdGotwalsPO.