As they've done all season, the Central Lakes College Raiders softball team fought through adversity and came out shining.
This time the Raiders staved off elimination.
After dropping game one 7-2 to Rainy River in the best-of-three Region 13B tournament at Grand Rapids, CLC came back and won the next two games 5-2 and 12-3 to earn a trip to the NJCAA Division III national tournament.
It's the second straight year the Raiders, who improved to 28-12, have qualified for the nationals.
"We lost the first battle but ended up winning the war," Raiders coach Bob Sullivan said. "Coming off the state tournament there were questions about if we'd be able to hit against Rainy River pitcher Kim Rieu. Once the girls started making contact, they kept pounding the ball and made Rainy play defense.
Lindsay Jourdan was region MVP
"It also came down to which team had the most energy. We spent close to seven hours on the field and I think we were the deeper team today."
The opening game was all Rainy River as Rieu handcuffed the Raiders at the plate, limiting them to just two hits, by Lindsay Jourdan and Ali Mathison. CLC didn't help matters much by committing six errors.
With their backs against the wall, the Raiders responded by cutting down the errors (1) and increasing the hits (8) to beat the Voyageurs in game two. Alison LeBlanc went 3-for-4 and Jess Michels added two hits while Jourdan and Malerie Riewer chipped in with a hit apiece.
"We talked about how Rainy River is ranked fifth in the nation and that nobody has looked at us," said Sullivan. "The team responded well and they said it wasn't time to end their season. After they won the second game they knew they could do anything against Rainy."
The deciding game wasn't close as the Raiders pounded on the worn-down Rieu and collected 17 hits. Izzy Anderson and Michels both went 3-4 while Jourdan, LeBlanc, Megan Anderson and Brittany Thorson each had two hits.
Region 13B softball
Game 1: RR 7, CLC 2
Game 2: CLC 5, RR 2
Game 3: CLC 12, RR 3
Overall: CLC 28-12
Next: CLC in NJCAA Division III national tournament at Rochester Thursday through Saturday
Megan Anderson, playing on an injured knee, launched her 12th home run of the season. Michels, Izzy Anderson, Megan Anderson and Mathison each drove in two runs and Thorson scored three runs.
Jourdan was named the Region 13B most valuable player for her stellar play at the plate and behind it as the Raiders' catcher.
Mathison, meanwhile, picked up both wins on the mound for the Raiders and put together a stellar day at the plate as well.
"I got both Ali and Malerie together after the first game and asked who wanted to throw," Sullivan said, "and of course they both said they wanted to. For two pitchers to work together like that shows great character.
"Lindsay did just a great job catching. In the second game she threw a few runners out and I think the rest of the team responded well to that. Having her behind the plate really lifts the confidence of both pitchers."
Rainy River 7 10 4
Central Lakes 2 2 6
WP: Kim Rieu. LP: Malerie Riewer.
Rainy River 2 6 2
Central Lakes 5 8 1
WP: Ali Mathison. LP: Rieu. 2B: CLC-Jess Michels. RBI: Mathison, Alison LeBlanc, Michels, Riewer, Lindsay Jourdan.
Rainy River 3 8 2
Central Lakes 12 17 3
WP: Mathison. LP: Rieu. 2B: CLC-Brittany Thorson, Izzy Anderson, Riewer. HR: CLC-Megan Anderson. RBI: CLC-Michels 2, I. Anderson 2, Mathison 2, M. Anderson 2, Thorson, LeBlanc.
TROY GUNDERSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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