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Rushing to nationals: Rock Falls youth softball team among country's best

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(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@svnmail.com)
Milledgeville's Samantha Miller throws to first during Thursday evening's practice of the Rock Falls Rush 10-under softball team.

The Rock Falls Rush throw like a bunch of girls. They also hit and field like girls, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Fact is that the team of 10- and 11-year-olds play softball at a very high level. The 10-under ASA team will take on some of the best teams in the country when they travel to the Northern National Championships, next Thursday through Sunday in Topeka, Kan.

The Rush's 10-player roster includes seven girls from Rock Falls, two from Sterling, and one from Milledgeville. The team is 35-7 this season and qualified for the national tournament with a runner-up finish at the state tournament.

The team relies heavily on pitchers Samantha Miller of Milledgeville and Lakyn Waldschmidt of Rock Falls, the daughter of the Rush's coach, J.D. Waldschmidt. The pitching tandem looks forward to the national tournament.

"I think it's pretty cool. It's not something a lot of kids my age get to do," said Miller, whose pitching coach is 2010 Milledgeville High School graduate Keali Engelkens, one of the best pitchers the area has even seen. "We're hoping to win. That would be pretty big. I didn't expect this. I just expected to play regular tournaments."

"Hopefully we can go there and win some games and do well," Lakyn Waldschmidt said. "If you believe you can do it, you can do it."

Miller and Waldschmidt have played together for three years, along with shortstop Olivia Babcock and catcher Jordan Clevenger, both of Rock Falls.

"This feels really good. I'm excited," Babcock said. "I didn't expect this. I was psyched that we did this. We just want to have fun and see what happens."

"I think we can compete and do pretty good," Clevenger said. "We've won most of the tournaments we've played in. We have strong pitchers, good hitting, and good fielders."

Coach Waldschmidt said the final decision to compete in the national tournament came from the girls.

"They actually talked us into going," said Waldschmidt, who is assisted by Shawn Babcock and Marty Clevenger of Rock Falls and Jen Ferris of Sterling. "It was the the girls' choice. They want to go down and compete.

"As soon as we said we were thinking about doing this, their eyes lit up. There's a chance they may never get to do something like this in the future."

Team roster

Cara Alexander, Olivia Babcock, Jordan Clevenger, Madyson Ferris, Taylor Hoefler, Samantha Miller, Allie Renner, Faith Sandrock, Taylor Stevens, Lakyn Waldschmidt

Who: Rock Falls Rush

What: ASA 10-under Northern National Championships

When: July 29-Aug. 1

Where: Topeka, Kan.

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