In past years, finishing second in the league softball standings might only guarantee having to find a bus driver for the regional tournament.
But two seasons into the Ratings Percentage Index age, teams know they're rewarded most for building a tough schedule. Winning helps, too.
And for Discovery Canyon, a 14-4-1 record with the second-toughest schedule in 4A translated into a No. 4 standing in the final RPI and a home date this weekend when regionals begin throughout the state.
"It's great to host," said coach Tanya Ramsay, who started the program from scratch soon after the K-12 campus expanded to high school a decade ago. "It's definitely an honor for the school, program and Colorado Springs. We're excited. Getting to this point has become quite a tradition, and the kids have bought in and loved the tradition. They want to keep it going."
Ten Pikes Peak region schools finished with an RPI good enough to qualify for the postseason - 32 teams advance in 4A and 5A and 24 in 3A. But only Discovery Canyon finished in the top eight to secure home-field advantage. Incidentally, the Thunder were 5-0 at home during the regular season but finished second in the 4A/5A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference, finishing 6-1 with Air Academy but losing a head-to-head matchup with the Kadets.
Following play Saturday, region champs and runners-up in all three classes will qualify for their respective 16-team state tournaments, which take place Oct. 20-21 at Aurora Sports Complex.
The Thunder, who have advanced to the 4A state tournament the past six years, previously earned the right to host in 2012-13, partnering with UCCS to stage the five-game event at the two sites. By Thursday, Ramsay hopes modifications to the middle school field will meet requirements set by the Colorado High School Activities Association to keep the entire regional on the Northgate campus.
"We're working to meet the criteria," Ramsay said. "We're trying to host it all at Discovery Canyon, and we've been in discussions to meet the criteria."
For Ramsay, it's a good problem to have, despite not hoisting a league championship trophy. That beats having to track down a bus driver.
"We're spending some time trying to work out logistics, but the good news is that we're here and we get to play in front of our hometown fans," Ramsay said. "We try to give our team the strongest schedule that we can get and find a way to be playing our best ball in October."