For the third consecutive year, Payson powerhouse Tracy Lubken and her teammates, Lil' Saints fast pitch softball squad, have qualified for the ASA National Tournament, Aug. 9 through 14, in Fresno, Calif.
Lubken's team qualified for the national tournament by winning the Rocky Mountain Regional Championship July 24 and 25 in Tucson --two weeks after being crowned the Metro-Phoenix Champions for 12-and-under softball.
When Lubken first entered Junior Olympic Fastpitch, she played on the Tempe Hotshots, and helped her team earn the 10-and-under championship in her division.
Last year, Lubken's team battled their way to a Rocky Mountain championship and advanced to the national competition in Chattanooga, Tenn., placing 14th in the nation.
This summer, the sixth-grader plays on the Lil' Saints --the oldest and most recognized Junior Olympic softball organization in the state, according to Lubken's mother, Valerie Lubken.
Lubken has only been with her team since January, but has won five championships, placed second in three tournaments, including a national qualifier, and placed third in two others. The Lil' Saints have traveled Arizona, New Mexico and California, and now sit as the team to beat in Arizona and the Rocky Mountain region in the 12 and under division.
As an 11-year old, Lubken is the second youngest player on the team. She's the starting right fielder under the direction of Coach Lance Dickson. Dickson has coached his Lil' Saints to the nationals every year for the past five years.
Dickson's family started the Lil' Saints organization 19 years ago to help guide young players toward college scholarships.
"The three to four trips a week down to the Valley have really paid off," Lubken's mother said. "Tracy plays with more heart and intensity than you can imagine. If there is a chance to get dirty sliding in for an extra base or diving for a catch in the outfield, she is definitely gonna be in the middle of it."
At the regionals, Lubken slugged four singles, scoring two RBIs, two runs of her own, and got on base six out of seven times. She also bagged three big catches in the outfield to stop scoring threats of opposing teams as her contribution to the championship win.