As of Thursday, May 31, 2012
AUSTIN - Often the high-pressure atmosphere of the UIL State Softball Tournament will overwhelm inexperienced underclassmen.
But not Flatonia's Katie Steinhauser.
"I like hearing the crowd cheering, I like hearing people cheer against me, it inspires me a little bit to do a little better," the sophomore pitcher said.
Steinhauser held Garrison to three hits and one earned run as Flatonia won 4-1 in the Class 1A semifinal at McCombs Field on Wednesday.
The win advances Flatonia to Thursday's final. The Lady Bulldogs will attempt to win their second state title against Ivanhoe Rayburn.
In softball, pitching is usually the difference between packing up early and booking a trip to the state tournament.
It is no secret Steinhauser's improvement is a key reason for Flatonia's deep playoff run.
"The progress that she's made in just one year has been huge," senior second baseman Alexandra Bruns said prior to the state tournament. "It's meant so much for our team and pretty much everything for our defense."
As a freshman, Steinhauser finished 10-11, and the Lady Bulldogs were eliminated in the area round.
Flatonia coach Rodney Stryk worked with Steinhauser on accuracy, and the hard work she put into improving shows.
Coming into the state tournament, she had a 26-5 record with a 1.48 ERA and was holding the opposition to a .169 batting average. She struck out 141 batters in 185 innings.
"She's gotten better with her ball placement, with her speed," junior third baseman Taylor Williams said before the semifinal. "She's gotten better mixing up pitches and she keeps batters on their toes and guessing."
Steinhauser said she worked on the mental approach of pitching during the off-season.
She said there was not a big difference between the 2011 Lady Bulldogs, who were eliminated in the area round, and the 2012 team playing one final game in Austin.
"The only thing different is that we want it so much more," Steinhauser said. "I think in the tournament it's a matter of who wants it more.
"The experience that I gained last year has definitely made me the pitcher that I am this year."
Although she only had one strikeout against Garrison, Steinhauser hit her spots and let the defense record 20 of the 21 outs in the semifinal.
The lone blemish in Steinhauser's performance was a run scored in the top of the sixth on an infield error.
Standing between Flatonia's second state title is a Rayburn team Stryk said has a batting average .100 higher than the Lady Bulldogs.
Although the Rebels have a potent offense, Steinhauser says the teams are evenly matched.
"I just think that anyone can beat anyone, and it's a matter of who shows up to play, who takes care of business, and I think that (Thursday), we're going to," she said.