The Tigers lost five starters from last year's team that reached the PIAA Class A quarterfinals before losing to Chartiers-Houston. They were replaced by five inexperienced players and coach Stewart Miller just hoped for the best.
Now the Tigers find themselves right back in the PIAA quarterfinals.
"I'm just so proud of them," Miller said.
Fannett-Metal (21-4) faces Elk County Catholic (20-3) today at 5 p.m. at Saint Francis University in Loretto.
While F-M edged Carmichaels 2-1 on Monday, the District 9 champion Lady Crusaders defeated Sto-Rox 6-2.
In that game, ECC pitcher Taylor Schlimm allowed 10 hits and three walks while striking out six, and her team made four errors behind her. But Sto-Rox could push across only two runs despite getting all of those baserunners.
Miller said, "I've talked to the Sto-Rox coach. He said (the ECC) pitcher throws pretty good. She moves the pitches in and out, but doesn't have a lot of movement."
Elk County Catholic scored three times in the bottom of the first inning Monday, helped by RBI singles from Kristy Hanes and Taylor DaCanal. In the third inning, Lyndsey Trumbull clouted a three-run home run.
ECC had only four hits, but made them count.
"We've heard they have three above-average players - the pitcher, the third baseman (Trumbull) and the catcher (Hanes)," Miller said. "They're not real fast, but they have no real weaknesses.
The Tigers will rely on their 1-2 pitching punch of Jenna Rhodes (10-1) and Blaire Lauthers (11-3). Both pitched Monday, with Rhodes going the first four innings for the win and Lauthers earning a save.
"It's certainly nice to have two good pitchers like that," Miller said.
The Tigers have been led in batting by Lauthers (.516 batting average, 13 RBIs); Megan Dougherty (.377, 10); Rhodes (.362, 13); Morgan Burdge (.327, 13) and Naomi Fields (.293, 9).
"We had one of best practices of the whole year today," Miller said Wednesday. "The girls were very focused and everybody was upbeat."
Notes: In PIAA Tournament games - all since 2004 - F-M has an overall record of 4-6 Should the Tigers win today, they would equal their deepest state run, when they fell in the semifinals 9-0 to Minersville in 2005.
Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EdGotwalsPO.