As Central Lakes College Raiders fast-pitch softball coach Bob Sullivan said, "We did it the hard way."
Trailing the Northland Pioneers 7-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning in the first game of the Region 13B championship series the Raiders rallied for an 8-7 victory.
The comeback spurred CLC to a 6-1 victory in the second game at Grand Rapids and enabled them to repeat as region champion.
"That first game was kind of a good wake up call for our team," Sullivan said. "It probably was a good thing going into the national tournament to get a little more refocused. Some of our games have been maybe too easy. It's been a long season, you need to get that focus and I think we got our focus back at the right time.
Malerie Riewer was named the tournament's MVP.
"That second game we came out hitting right away. We got in command right away and never looked back."
CLC's Malerie Riewer was named the tournament's most valuable player. Joining her on the all-tournament team were Kjelsy Loeffler, Ali Mathison, Bridget Badger and Olivia Graham.
"Malerie was just on fire today," Sullivan said. "She's very deserving of the MVP award."
The Raiders, ranked No. 1 in Division III of the NJCAA, have won 36 games entering the national tournament, which begins Thursday at Rochester.
Trailing by five runs entering the bottom of the sixth CLC rallied to score four times. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh Lindsey Latour reached on an error and Riewer hit a two-run homer to end it.
Raiders 8-6, Northland 7-1
The key: CLC's Malerie Riewer hit a two-run homer to end the first game and was winning pitcher in the second.
Overall: CLC 37-1
Next: CLC in NJCAA Division III national tournament Thursday through Saturday at Rochester.
"Malerie put a convincing ball over the fence," Sullivan said. "It was a great home run."
Winning pitcher Olivia Graham gave up only two earned runs while striking four. She improved her record to 13-0 with an ERA of 0.622.
Riewer went 3-for-3 with a double. Loeffler was 2-3 and Brittany Thorson drove in three runs. Graham also had two RBIs.
Northland 7 9 3
Central Lakes 8 9 6
WP: Olivia Graham (13-0). LP: Brittni Johnson. 2B: CLC-Olivia Graham, Malerie Riewer. HR: CLC-Riewer.
Riewer pitched six solid innings, allowing only three hits and no earned runs while striking out three and walking none. She raised her record to 13-1 with an ERA of 2.614.
Loeffler had two of the Raiders' eight hits. Badger had two doubles and drove in three runs. Riewer also had a double and Latour drove in a run.
Central Lakes 6 8 1
Northland 1 3 1
WP: Malerie Riewer. LP: Shawna Rogalla. 2B: Bridget Badger (2), Malerie Riewer.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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