Rampage ready for nationalsFor the past nine months, the Superior Rampage softball team has been working toward one goal. This week the 11- to 13-year-old girls will see their efforts pay off as they travel to Eagan, Minn. to compete in a national softball tournament.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
For the past nine months, the Superior Rampage softball team has been working toward one goal. This week the 11- to 13-year-old girls will see their efforts pay off as they travel to Eagan, Minn. to compete in a national softball tournament.
“It’s just an honor to be able to be going,” said Brandie Goldberg, 13. “No Superior team’s ever gone.”
The Rampage are among 68 teams registered for this year’s North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) 12U National Tournament in Eagan, Minn. Pool play begins at 8 a.m. Thursday, and the tournament concludes Sunday.
To qualify for the national tournament, the Rampage played in a tournament in Mason City, Iowa earlier this summer. The top two teams in the tournament earned a qualifying spot.
“There’s a lot of dedication in this group,” said Stewart Goldberg, team manager. “These girls have really played well together.”
Members of the Superior Rampage are: Lanie DeMeyer, Brandie Goldberg, Lexi Johnson, Natalie Noble, Erika Olson, Jordyn Olson, Madysen Stariha, Erin Thompson, Allie Thul, Hannah Thul and Ashley Welsh. Lyvia Olson is a team assistant for the Rampage. Coaching the Superior girls are Bernie Olson, Brad Thompson and Goldberg.
For many of the girls, the trip to Iowa was their first outside of Wisconsin or Minnesota.
The Superior girls played several out-of-state teams in the Mason City tournament and picked up wins over teams from Iowa and South Dakota. The Rampage were then set to play in the championship round when severe weather forced the games to be canceled.
“Even though the tournament got rained out and didn’t finish — we never got to play the championship game and find out if we were first or second — we still qualified,” Goldberg said.
The inclement weather also provided the girls with memories to take home to Superior.
“There was a tornado,” Brandie said. “The clouds were pretty bad and on the TV it told us that (a tornado had touched down).”
“I have a picture of it,” said Natalie Noble, 13.
The Mason City tournament was the second tournament of the year for the Rampage, but Madysen Stariha, 11, said it seemed like only a week ago that they’d played in the qualifying event. She’s still in disbelief that the Rampage are headed to nationals this week.
The Superior players have been on a whirlwind run for the past few months. The team hasn’t played a game in Superior yet, but Goldberg said they’ve been almost everywhere else.
They have played 41 games since beginning their softball season in mid-April. The Superior girls play at the 14U level for league games in Duluth and finished second in the one 14U tournament they entered this year.
At the 12U level, the Rampage faced the state champions from Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well as the national champion.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is just challenge them,” Goldberg said. “We put this ridiculous schedule together. We went and played the best teams everywhere we could, thinking that we were really just going to get beat up on and learn a whole bunch from it, and it turns out we’re winning.”
Most girls playing for the Rampage are 13. Madysen, the youngest player on the team, could actually qualify to play at the 10U level.
All of the girls playing for the Rampage are from Superior and came up through the Superior Youth Organization (SYO) program.
“The SYO is doing a lot of good things with youth softball right now. They even have a seven- and eight-year-old softball, which is a big difference,” Goldberg said.
Most of the girls on the Rampage team have played since they were seven years old, but it’s the time they put in during the winter and spring that has made the biggest impact. The team held 107 practice sessions between Oct. 15 — when the team officially formed — and April 15.
“We rented a store in the Mariner Mall and we put batting cages and pitching lanes in and practiced all winter,” Goldberg said. “All the girls play other sports too, so it was kind of interesting.”
Natalie juggled guitar lessons, softball and volleyball during the fall sports season. She’d leave school, eat on the way to softball practice and then go directly to her guitar lessons. After that, the 13-year-old dashed to volleyball practice and finally ended her day at home with a pile of schoolwork.
During the winter sports season, Brandie had a hectic schedule. She’d get a ride home after school, grab something quick to eat and be at the Mariner Mall facility 15 minutes later. After softball Brandie went on to basketball practice, and she’d end her day by returning to softball practice for a few more swings.
The Rampage had open practice six days a week during the winter. It was not mandatory for the girls to attend, but they came anyway.
“I think when I realized we were on to something was on a Tuesday in January when we had nine girls show up,” Goldberg said. “They were in there batting and pitching and working and nobody was screwing around or talking; they were all just working. I think that’s when I realized that maybe we had something special going on here.”
Goldberg said there was a two- or three-year plan to get to the national tournament, but the girls exceeded expectation and made it in their first year.
“I guess I hadn’t realized how far we’ve come,” Natalie said. “On rainy days we go to SHS (Superior High School) and watch the videos of our games and the coaches help us through it step by step and tell us what we’re doing wrong. We’re so much better since the beginning of the year. You can see it on the tapes.”
Whatever happens at the national tournament, the girls say they’ll keep playing together, practicing through the winter just as they did before.
The Rampage also plans to introduce a winter schedule for the 2012-13 season. They’ll be playing indoors in a Wisconsin Dells tournament the day after Thanksgiving and in Rosemount, Minn. on New Year’s Day.
Goldberg also said Twin Ports Rampage Fastpitch Softball will likely expand to have both a 12U and a 14U team next year. The group will maintain its practice facility in the Mariner Mall and hopes to hold a few softball clinics, which will be open to everyone.
12U National Softball Tournament
Thursday, July 19
Superior Rampage vs. Apple Valley Lentz, 11 a.m.
Andover Huskies vs. Waconia, 11 a.m.
Friday, July 20
Superior Rampage vs. Waconia, 8 a.m.
Apple Valley Lentz vs. Andover Huskies, 8 a.m.
Andover Huskies vs. Superior Rampage, 12:30 p.m.
Waconia vs. Apple Valley Lentz, 12:30 p.m.