Liz Rodebaugh took just a moment when asked about her top Dale County softball memory. It really wasn’t about her.
“I couldn’t pick just one, but I’d probably have to say both the moments when I was in eighth grade when we qualified for state and this past year when we qualified,” said Rodebaugh, Dale County’s catcher who signed a Division I scholarship with Chattanooga on Wednesday.
“That’s huge. Making it through regionals is always really big. It’s always just a blessing and a great opportunity to make it to state.”
Dale County softball coach Nicole Dutton wasn’t surprised a bit that her answer was about the team, not a personal highlight.
“She loves her team,” the coach said. “Liz is an exceptional kid all around. She’s in our top 10 and in the running to be valedictorian. She’s smart, she’s a great leader, she leads by example on and off the field.”
Those leadership qualities will be on display this spring. Rodebaugh is Dale County’s only senior.
She has spent most of her high school summers playing travel ball for the Alabama Fury.
“I played with them in the summer of my eighth-grade year, going into ninth grade,” Rodebaugh said. “I played for Wade Hussey. He quit coaching for a little while. He has daughters of his own. I played with the Mobile Thrillers for a season and I started playing with coach David Asbill for the Fury again.”
Finding a coaching staff she was comfortable with was key in her college choice.
“It’s always been about finding somewhere that’s another home,” Rodebaugh said. “I want to go somewhere I can enjoy these next four years. Coaching is a big part of that. If you connect with the coaches, those coaches understand you as a player and what you need to be successful. That was a huge thing for me.”
She said she “connected” with Mocs head coach Frank Reed and assistant coach Scottie Kilgore. She’d played in the Scenic City Showcase for years in travel ball. But her official visit to the school gave her another look around.
“There’s so much stuff to do in Chattanooga. My visit was awesome,” Rodebaugh said. “Being there and meeting all the girls, the teammates, just being in that atmosphere and learning what it’s going to be like these next four years, that was super fun.”
She has another season of fun with the Warriors. This will be her sixth year on the varsity. Rodebaugh has a career .379 batting average, a .435 on-base percentage, 250 career hits, 164 RBIs, 232 runs scored, 11 home runs and 120 stolen bases.
Just last season, when the Warriors reached the state tournament, she hit .432 with a .482 OBP. She had 73 hits, 67 RBIs and scored 58 runs with five home runs and 35 steals.
“She can hit with the best and on days the bat’s a little cold she can drop a bunt down and beat it out for a base hit,” Dutton said. “She’s a great role model to all of the younger kids.”
Asked what a stranger would see as the biggest difference between eighth-grade Liz and senior Liz, the senior talked about being bigger and stronger, particularly her arm strength.
Dutton had a much different answer.
“I would have to say Liz has come out of her shell,” the coach said. “Eighth-grade Liz probably said two words the whole season and probably not loud enough for you to hear. I was beating on that shell when she was in the eighth grade trying to get her to come out of it.
“She is here now and I’m so proud of her and all of her accomplishments. She deserves nothing less. She has worked so hard for this.”