Dad had some big news for Tegan Livesay when she came home from a high school volleyball match last November.
"He said, 'I think I've got a line on a job in Minnesota,' " Livesay said.
Livesay, who had pitched her hometown school, the Newton (Kan.) Railers, to the Class 5A championship at the Kansas softball state tournament as a junior, was gobsmacked.
She had already established herself as one of the top high school pitchers in Kansas, earning plenty of college attention before accepting a scholarship offer from Division I Southeast Missouri State. Newton was her home. She had big plans for her final high school go-round. This was not at all on her senior year agenda.
"I definitely did not want to move at first," she said. "There were things I wanted to do in a Railer jersey."
Her father, Tim, gave her a choice: She could stay in Newton, a city of more than 18,000 a half-hour north of Wichita, to finish high school or move with the family to Fairmont.
"I know she went back and forth on it a few times," Fairmont softball coach Cory Hainy said. "It was a tough decision. As a coach, I wanted to see her come here, but as a dad, I totally got it if she didn't want to."
Wanting to stay near her family, she followed them to Fairmont in December. She's glad she did.
She made friends quickly at the school with an enrollment of just under 500, partly, Livesay suspects, because her softball reputation preceded her. "I think my softball connections helped, and that's fine by me," she said.
A fine situation all around. "Our expectations went way up," Hainy said.
She survived the winter ("My first 10-degree day, oh my gosh! It was so cold. And I'd never seen that much snow in my life!"), went to hockey games and did what high schoolers do.
When the softball season rolled around, it was Livesay's time to show her stuff.
She stands 5-11 and throws pitches at 60-plus mph, with command and a devastating rise ball, and she has elevated the softball team from good to a consistent top-10 ranking in Class 2A. In her first outing, she struck out a school-record 18 batters in helping the Cardinals beat rival New Ulm 3-0, their first victory over the Eagles since 2016, ending a string of 12 losses.
Hainy said Livesay's influence on the team was evident immediately.
"New Ulm is always good, always at the top of the conference," he said. "She shut them out. It was infectious. We hoped to be pretty good — we had nine seniors coming back — but she made us elite. The players play with more confidence when she's pitching."
She has routinely bettered the school's strikeout record. She had one more 18-strikeout effort, followed by a 21-strikeout game in a doubleheader sweep of Marshall.
Tuesday she fanned a whopping 25 in a 1-0, 10-inning loss to Jackson County Central, burned by the only hit she allowed.
Livesay is 12-2 with a 0.43 ERA, 205 strikeouts and two perfect games. She's a force at the plate as well, hitting .480 with four home runs.
Fairmont (16-2) has risen to No. 6 in the most recent Class 2A rankings. The Cardinals are No. 2 in Class 2A in the Qualify Ranking Formula (QRF), a method to measure relative strength and seed tournaments.
And she's found that she's enjoying her time in Fairmont, particularly now that the ice is off the lakes.
"The lakes are so clear, and so many of them have sand bottoms," she said. "Back in Kansas, all the lakes are so muddy."
She's proud of how she's affected her teammates. "We have a great team with a good pitcher, so we kind of have a target on our backs," she said. "It's been fun watching these girls develop new love for softball. It's been humbling."
The Cardinals play perennial small-school power Pipestone on Saturday for the Big South Conference title. After that, it's on to the Section 2 playoffs, where Fairmont hopes to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in school history.
That won't be easy. The section is tough, featuring six of the top 16 in the Class 2A QRF, including rival New Ulm.
"Our section is unbelievable tough," Hainy said. "Whoever makes it out has to have things fall their way. But I've talked to the team and told them everybody wants to but not everybody can make it [to the state tournament]. Even if we don't go, it's been a fun and successful season. They're going to look back and remember the wins."
For Livesay, once the season is over she'll join her club softball team, the Wichita Blitz. She heads off to college in late July.
It has been an unexpectedly fruitful year for her in Fairmont, one she never saw coming. She does not regret her choice to finish the school year in Minnesota.
"Coming here turned out to be a great thing," she said.