SALEM, Va. -- Jessica Simmons just rolls her eyes when she starts to recite all the mishaps her team has had when it’s time to hit the road.
“Our trips always go crazy,” she said. “If the trip goes completely right, then something’s off.
“Last year, on our trip to Arizona, our bus broke down. We had like a seven- or eight-hour delay. At the conference tournament, the bus broke down again. …”And the harrowing news for Simmons and her Savage Storm teammates was that if they hoped to reach the NCAA Division II softball championships, there would be more travel involved – and not just short jaunts across the state.
Southeastern Oklahoma first had to make a trip to Mankato, Minnesota, for its regional tournament. The Savage Storm won that tournament, which gave it the right to play in a Super Regional – again on the road. This time the destination was Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where they were to face Augustana (S.D.).
“We were home for one day then had to leave again,” she said. “I feel like this whole month I’ve been living out of a suitcase.”
Southeastern Oklahoma won a pair of one-run games to advance to the national tournament, which meant one more plane trip to Virginia.
“They overbooked our flight, so about half of our team had to stay behind for the next flight at one of our layovers,” she said. “And some of our baggage was lost, but we just had to get over it.”
The Savage Storm has weathered many similar moments on the field.
In their Regional, they were forced to play two championship games after losers’ bracket survivor Emporia State beat the Savage Storm in the first final game, and then the second game was tied at 2 before Southeastern Oklahoma came up with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, which turned out to be the runs it needed. Simmons hit the first of five consecutive singles to get that inning going.
In the first game of the Super Regional, the Savage Storm led Augustana 7-2 at the end of the top half of the second, only to surrender eight runs in the bottom of the inning and fall behind 10-7. It took a five-run fifth inning for the Savage Storm to regain the lead. It also had to rally in Game 2 before putting Augustana away once and for all.
So championship weekend in Salem has been nothing new for Southeastern Oklahoma.
An opening night loss to Dixie State put the Savage Storm in a win-or-go-home situation on Saturday. Twice, the team answered the call. In the first game, a 2-0 win against Wayne State (Mich.), Simmons scored both runs. She tripled to open the bottom of the first, then scored on a fielder’s choice. And in the fifth, she singled, stole both second and third base, then scored on an error.
“You just have to battle,” she said. “We’ve had to do this many times this year. We’re a team that never gives up. Whether you have to come back after a loss or if you have to come back in a game, we’re really good at coming back.”
The Savage Storm trailed 3-1 to Armstrong Atlantic going into the bottom of the fourth inning, but a three-run fourth, followed by a five-run sixth, gave Southeastern Oklahoma a 9-3 lead, and that ended up being enough to get Simmons and her teammates into Sunday's matchup with 2012 national champion Valdosta State.
“We didn’t have the most pleasant trip to get here,” Savage Storm coach Ron Faubion said. “But the kids overcame all of that, and they’re playing better.”