SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Canton softball team is used to making trips in late October to the Class 1 state tournament.
The Tigers, however, are in uncharted territory after beating North Harrison 4-2 in Friday's state semifinal game at the Killian Softball Complex and advancing to Saturday's championship game. It's the first time in program history the Tigers will play for a state title.
"All of us were screaming on the bus back to the hotel," Canton pitcher Olivia Jarvis said. "It's an experience we've never got to have."
Two losses prevented the Tigers from having that moment.
Canton advanced to state in 2014 and 2015, but each time lost in the semifinals and were forced to play in the third-place game just hours later. Canton won third in 2014, but settled for fourth in 2015.
Canton also lost a state semifinal game in 2008, but took third.
After that, the Canton players were cut loose because the season was over.
"My family and I would stay the night and some would stay and watch the games (Saturday)," Canton second baseman Brianna Caldwell said. "Others just went home. We never got to stay the night again with each other, so it's fun to get to do that for one more night."
Canton gets about 25 hours to prepare for the championship game's first pitch at 4 p.m. Canton coach Jonathan Bastian is using that time to keep the Tigers loose.
"We're going to go eat and have a nice meal and just enjoy the night," Bastian said. "The girls will get some sleep. We're just going to stay relaxed and enjoy the experience up until game time.
"There's no reason to stress out or anything like that."
To finally get to play a second day in the state was the goal all along for Canton.
"It was relieving," outfielder Katie Gaus said. "It's really discouraging to play a third-place game. It's really hard to be up for that."
Canton shouldn't have trouble being ready for the final game of the season this time.
"I don't know if this has set in yet," Caldwell said. "But this is definitely the most fun I've had at state."