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SEED PLANTED 10 YEARS AGO FLOWERS WITH RUMSCHIK'S BUFFALO BISONS

Ten years ago, coach John Rumschik watched the Mystics softball team from New Jersey defeat his daughter's team, 10-1, in the local Aunt Rosie's tournament. After watching the level of play performed by the Mystics, Rumschik envisioned coaching a team like that.

Three years ago, he got his wish.

Rumschik hand-picked 13 Western New York players from eight different schools to form the Buffalo Bisons' first 16-and-under team.

"The seed money came from the Buffalo Bisons baseball organization," said Rumschik. "This is what got us started and that is why we took the name Buffalo Bisons."

That original team is now competing in 18-and-under. Co-sponsored by Middle Atlantic Warehouse, Matthews, Bartlett and Dedecker and Gerstner Air Conditioning, the Bisons's 16-under team also has made a name for itself in Western New York.

Last year the 16-and-under Bisons went 55-7 during their traveling tournament summer schedule and qualified for the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Nationals. The only team from Western New York to qualify, it placed 33rd out of 128 teams.

"Out of the Northeast states, we finished highest in the ASA National Tournament," Rumschik said.

The Bisons' record combined with the defeat of seven 18-under teams that had made it to ASA Nationals last year resulted in an invitation to play in the Philadelphia Pennsbury tournament and the Colorado Fireworks tournament this year.

Rumschik believes this will provide an opportunity for players who did not contribute to the original team's success to build on its legacy.

"Our plan is to take the Buffalo Bisons name and take kids from the Western New York area and get the opportunity to play in front of college coaches," Rumschik said.

This year, their first in the 18-under division, the Bisons are 9-3 and hope to make it to the ASA Nationals again. They recently won a tournament in Brampton, Ont. and played in another tournament in Markham, Ont. They were the only U.S. team in each event.

Their 65-game summer schedule includes competition in Colorado, Binghamton, the ASA qualifier in Buffalo and the Aunt Rosie's tournament in Amherst. They also will play against the Western Region Empire State Games team, consisting of college and former college players, and the Great Britain Junior National team.

In the Aunt Rosie's tournament, the Bisons will compete as both a 16-under and 18-under team. Since not all of his players are below the age of 16, Rumschik selected other area players to join his 16-under team for this tournament.

His top hitters are Megan Evanoka, who has struck out only four times in more than 350 at-bats in the last two years and has a .375 average, and Kim Dodson, who is hitting .390.

Pitchers Jill Koch and Kristen Scheffold are the strikeout pitchers while Michelle Bestehorn changes speeds. The coach's daughter, Melissa Rumschik, is also on the team. And, according to Rumschik, twins Joelle and Kristin Brunetto are "the heart and soul" of the team.

"They have the most energy. They really get everyone going," coach Rumschik said.

"Our team, we just click," said center fielder Kristin Brunetto.

Not only do the girls play during the summer, but after two weeks off in August, they begin a fall schedule against area colleges. They are off from the second week in October until January, when most of the girls play other sports.

Rumschik does not plan to take a break from coaching the Bisons team any time soon.

"I am going to continue because I have two other younger daughters. We're going to be doing this for a long time."

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