Sara Pelegreen has been playing softball for a long time.
She's not quite sure if she's ever had a feeling like she's experiecing right now from the sport she loves.
The former Harrison Central standout and current West Virginia State pitcher is preparing for her first trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
"I can't even explain the feeling, honestly," Pelegreen said during a phone interview earlier this week. "Having pactices after the conference tournament was great. I just can't wait to get on the field and play."
The Lady Yellow Jackets will make a lengthy road trip, via charter bus, to Kutztown, Pa. to take part in the Atlantic Regional Tournament. They'll take on Indiana, Pa. at 1 p.m. Friday.
"We know IUP is a really good team," Pelegreen said. "They were at a tournament in Salem with us earlier this season, but we didn't play them. We realize that we're one of only 64 teams left playing in the nation, so we can't take anyone lightly."
West Virginia State learned its destination on Monday when the NCAA formally announced its Division II brackets. Pelegreen didn't watch the online show because, honestly, she wasn't aware it was happening.
"I watched it afterward, but I had already found out who we were playing," Pelegreen said. "I really didn't think we'd find out until we got to practice that day."
There were maybe a few nervous moments for Pelegreen and company after they came up short to West Virginia Wesleyan of earning the WVIAC's automatic bid to the tournament.
"We knew we deserved to be in because we were ranked high enough the week prior, and we didn't think the way we played in the (conference) tournament should have lowered us," Pelegreen admitted. "It was tough not knowing for sure, but we had practices scheduled, so our coaches were pretty confident."
The Yellow Jackets have posted a school-record 46 victories this season. Pelegreen owns a 17-6 record in the circle.
Pelegreen, who admitted she won't learn if she's starting Friday's game until just moments before game time, realizes that W.Va. State is "probably the underdog."
"This is only the second time in our school's history of making it to the NCAA Tournament," Pelegreen said. "We're just going to go play and not have any stress. I think we stressed out a bit too much at the tournament, but we're going to change that mentality and do our thing. We're going to go have fun and, hopefully, win some ballgames. We do not want to go two (games) and out."
Pelegreen learned on Tuesday that she'd been named first-team all-WVIAC for her season. She joined W.Va. State shortstop Brittany Hyatt on the first unit. Hyatt was named conference player of the year.
"It's exciting because I didn't have the two seasons, prior to this, that I wanted," Pelegreen said. "I worked hard for this and it paid off both in terms of helping our team get to the tournament and earning all-conference. I am really excited."
Pelegreen leads W.Va. State in earned run average (1.40), appearances (30), complete games (19), shut outs (6), innings pitched (165). She's fanned 110 hitters, while allowing just 34 walks.
"I had no other distractions and was just really focused on softball and school this season," Pelegreen said. "I felt like I needed to make a statement for myself because I didn't feel like I had played up to my potential. I wrote down goals on a white board in my room and I was able to achieve most of them."
Pelegreen isn't about to rest on her laurels either as she's already looking ahead to her senior season.
"I've set my goal, for next year, to be pitcher of the year (in the conference)," Pelegreen admitted. "I want to go all out for my senior year. We're losing some talented players (to graduation), but I really think we'll have the talent to win the conference next year."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org