In the aftermath of the stunning ending to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's 3-1 victory over St. Charles in the Class 2A softball championship game, pitcher Natalee Linman's thoughts quickly went to the only place they could.
Her father, Josh.
Linman pitched a complete game, keeping the Saints off balance until the bottom of the seventh inning.
That's when St. Charles got a pair of two-out hits to unsettle things. When a throw skipped past Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton third basemen Lexi Froemke, it appeared St. Charles would score at least one run.
But the ball caromed right back to Froemke, who threw a perfect strike to catcher Skylar Spessard, who applied the tag to St. Charles' Emma Chuchna for the final out of the game.
Linman gave a quick leap for joy, then immediately squatted with her hands covering her face.
"My dad died about a year ago," she said, smiling through tears, her voice cracking. "He was my biggest fan. He taught me softball. He's here today, I have a feeling."
Linman was ill early in the season, so she shared time on the rubber with eighth-grader Autumn Leach. Leach started the first two games of the tournament with Linman closing both victories.
Linman went the distance Friday, leaning heavily on her teammates and the memories of her father.
"He was a softball dad," she said. "He loved every one of these girls. I trusted my dad and I trusted God and I trusted my defense, because I know they were always behind me."
Linman was asked: What would your dad say now?
"He would be so proud and tell me how much he loved me," she said. "And I would get the biggest hug."