At the ripe age of 10, Sam Miller wanted to quit softball. She's glad she didn't.
Miller and her Rock Falls Rush 13U teammates will compete in the USSSA Central Region World Series July 22-28 in Des Moines, Iowa. It's the team's third straight year qualifying for the World Series.
"When I got asked to try out for this team, that was the year I wanted to quit softball," said Miller, now 14, who will be a freshman at Milledgeville High School this fall.
"I wasn't burned out," she added. "It was when the girls started pitching, and I got hit a couple times and I was like, 'I don't really want to do this anymore.' I'm so glad I stuck with it. It's my life."
It's a large part of the team's spring and summer. They've played some 70 games this season and are approximately 58-12, according to head coach J.D. Waldschmidt of Rock Falls, a 1993 Rock Falls High School graduate.
Though they're just 11 to 14-year-olds, much of the team members are seasoned veterans, having played together since they were 8.
The Rush claimed the USSSA 13U state championship in June in Rockford. It did not come easy.
"We lot our first pool game to the team we played in the championship," said Waldschmidt said. "They were the Dirt Devils from Joliet. That was the only game we lost. We came back and beat them in the championship 10-5."
Lakyn, 14, is J.D. daughter, and will be a freshman at Newman this fall.
Mady Ferris, 14, of Sterling has been there since the beginning. The shortstop/leadoff hitter will also be a freshman at Newman. She relishes the leadoff spot.
"It's kind of pressure, because it's up to you to get things started," she said. "If I get on, it gets things going, and it feels good. It's like everybody is depending on you and looking to you to get the job done."
In the early 90s, many wanted to "be like Mike." Miller wants to be like former Milledgeville great Keali Engelkens, who was Miller's pitching coach for many years.
"I grew up watching her play. She's been a big role model for me," Miller said.
Rock Falls Rush 13U roster
Cara Alexander 13 Sterling C
Amaya Castillo 13 Rock Falls OF
Madison Corwell 13 Sterling P/OF
Madison Craft 12 Sterling 3B/SS
Baylei Ferris 11 Sterling OF
Madyson Ferris 14 Sterling SS
Jocelyn Folkers 13 Milledgeville OF
Hannah Kessler 13 Rock Falls C
Sam Miller 14 Milledgeville P/OF
Shianne Mitchell 13 Shannon 3B
Emily Perkins 13 Mount Morris P/2B
Lakyn Waldschmidt 14 Rock Falls P/1B