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Softball phenom Keagan Rothrock lifts Roncalli to unprecedented heights

Roncalli’s Keagan Rothrock competes during the Carmel Softball Invitational on April 23 in Carmel, Ind. (The Indianapolis Star via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Keagan Rothrock was 6 years old when she started pitching. And she admittedly wasn’t very good.

“I could not throw strikes,” Rothrock said. “I went to lessons a lot.”

But a lot has changed in 11 years.

Rothrock now boasts an impressive resume as a dual threat both in the circle and in the batter’s box. During her 2022 high school season at Roncalli (Ind.), she recorded a 0.70 ERA and a .529 batting average, earning Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year honors along the way.

It was one for the history books as the Royals shattered records in extra-base hits, total bases, slugging percentage and errorless games. They’ve won 46 consecutive games, one shy of tying the state’s record, and with Rothrock in the pitcher’s circle, the Royals became back-to-back Class 4A state champions.

The Roncalli softball team hoists the trophy after winning a Class 4A sectional final on May 25. (The Indianapolis Star via USA TODAY NETWORK)

“It was a really good feeling knowing all of our hard work paid off in the end. It was really rewarding,” Rothrock said.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Rothrock secured the victory. She faced her last batter in what she calls a longer at-bat — five pitches. Rothrock’s first two pitches were strikes. Her third pitch — a rise ball — was a little too out of the zone. The batter fouled off the next pitch. With the count at 1-2, Rothrock delivered a fifth and final pitch. The batter swung and missed, and the Royals were once again state champs.

Roncalli fans were jubilant, as Rothrock threw off her mask and glove with a swarm of Royals enveloping her.

“She’s a fierce competitor,” Roncalli coach David Lauck said. “… The effort she puts in to be great is recognized by her teammates. She’s our hardest worker, our best player, our best leader.”

Rothrock has also shined on the international stage as well. As a member of the USA Softball U-18 Women’s National Team, Rothrock competed in the 2021 Junior Pan American Games and World Baseball Softball Confederation Women’s Softball World Cup, where she helped Team USA win a pair of gold medals. She amassed 37 strikeouts and allowed just one hit while recording an impressive 0.00 ERA throughout the two tournaments.

Keagan Rothrock competes last year for the USA Softball U-18 Women's National Team. (Photo courtesy of USA Softball)

In the offseason, she worked to improve her batting. She led Roncalli with 14 home runs, a 366 percent increase from the year before, and she recorded 55 RBIs.

In the circle, she compiled a 28-0 record with eight no-hitters and five perfect games, but despite her eye-popping numbers on the field, Rothrock was still surprised by the award.

“It still surprises me every time I get something. I know there’s a ton of players who could get it,” she said.

Before the state championship game, Rothrock came to practice dressed for photos. As she walked up to the field, she saw big cameras everywhere and a crowd of familiar faces in the stands. The team practiced as usual, until Lauck stopped practice. Photographers made their way onto the field. Lined up for photos, Lauck delivered the good news, his voice booming over the loudspeaker.

“Keagan is not only an Indiana player of the year, she’s been named the Gatorade Player of the Year,” he said.

Keagan Rothrock accepts the trophy for Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year. (Photy courtesy of Gatorade)

Roncalli sits 15 minutes from downtown Indianapolis. In a city known for passionate sports fans, the school’s softball team draws a crowd.

Rothrock and her teammates have become local celebrities of sorts. At the end of their games, they go out to meet the young fans. With softballs and phones in hand, the girls approach to get an autograph or picture.

“She’s kind of turned our community upside down,” Lauck said. “She’s available. She’s got open arms and a genuine personality that fans gravitate to.”

It started in 2021. After the 2020 season was canceled, the community began to buzz about the upcoming season.

“There was a lot of talk around Roncalli softball,” she said.

After fans started showing up in masses, it didn’t take long for the team to embrace their hometown fame.

“I love talking to all the little girls,” Rothrock said. “Just to be able to brighten their day, I had role models when I was younger. It’s nice to give back.”

Roncalli pitcher Keagan Rothrock is greeted by catcher Anne Marie Meek after a strikeout on May 25 in a Class 4A sectional final. (The Indianapolis Star via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Rothrock picked up her first softball as a toddler. At age 3, she started playing tee-ball.

“Me and my mom would joke around in the backyard, she’d have me pitch,” Rothrock said.

Rothrock’s mother Laura pitched at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, and under Laura’s guidance, Keagan has been able to grow and perfect the craft.

At age 7, she joined her first travel team, aptly named the Indiana Gators. Soon, Rothrock will be a Florida Gator, a commitment she made in seventh grade.

“I’ve wanted to be a Gator forever. That was the initial reason. Once we got into the recruiting process, all of it was just awesome,” she said. “They’re one of the top schools in the country for education as well.”

School is also important to Rothrock. With a 4.06 GPA, Rothrock plans to pursue pre-med at Florida, with her sights set on becoming a pediatrician.

On and off the field, Rothrock is committed to succeeding. When she steps into the Gainesville locker room, she’ll be surrounded by familiar faces, having played with all but one of the girls in the 2023 class.

“She’ll have a lot of eyes when she steps onto campus,” Lauck said. “But I do feel like she’s excited, and I hope she’s a little nervous, too. That leads to her preparation. She just continues to prepare mentally, physically and spiritually.”

Lucky for Lauck, Rothrock has one final year with the Royals, and she plans to cherish every moment.

“[Memories] are going to last forever,” Rothrock said. “Not everybody gets to experience that.”

Nika Anschuetz is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @nlanschuetz.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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