SEVERN, MD. -- The cameras were out early and often. The good-natured ribbing of teammates was plentiful. And there was a lot of laughter. A lot.
What that all added up to was a relaxed 9-4 Central Lakes College victory over Hesston (Kan.) Friday in the seventh-place game at the Division III Community College National Softball Tournament at Randazzo Park.
The atmosphere in the Raiders' dugout took a 180-degree turn after they lost two games Thursday. And it turned out to be for the good.
"When we have fun, we tend to play that much better," said first baseman Tracy Bohall, who was 1-for-3 with an RBI. "Not to say we were getting on each other's nerves, but it's been a long season. We came out yesterday and we were a little nervous."
Pitcher Nanette Ostlund was the perfect example of the Raiders one-day turnaround. She lasted only an inning in Thursday's 12-4 loss to Broome (N.Y.) and gave up nine earned runs, but against Hesston she threw six innings and gave up only four runs. She allowed a third-inning home run and then proceeded to retire 10 straight batters before allowing teammate Jenny Sovich to close the game.
"Yesterday, we had a lot of tough breaks," said Ostlund, a sophomore from Bertha, on Friday. "I let things get to me and got frustrated fast. Being at nationals, we had jitters. When we think about it too much, we get tight and tense. It just wasn't meant to be.
"Today, there was no pressure on people. We had nothing to lose; we just wanted to end on a win. We played like we know how to play."
The Raiders took advantage of Hesston errors and pitcher control problems right away in the first inning. Hesston hurler Michelle Wade's three walks combined with an error by the second baseman allowed four Raider runners to cross the plate in the top of the first.
"The team does well when they react," said Raiders coach Dennis Eastman, whose team was late arriving to the field Friday morning. "There were times we had too much time to think about things."
The Raiders led 7-4 after they scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning as a brisk rain started to fall. Erin Thiesse singled and CLC took advantage of two more Hesston errors.
Thiesse finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored, while Becki Wagner was 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Nothing was more impressive than the Raiders defense. Destiny Smith snagged a line shot at shortstop and then threw an advancing runner out at first base for her second double play assist of the weekend. Suzy Baratto shifted from right field to left field and made three put outs in one inning and Thiesse made tough grab after tough grab in center field. The Raiders didn't commit an error in their last two games.
"I learned going to nationals you can't be nervous," said Bohall, a sophomore from Pequot Lakes. "You just have to be happy to be there. If you don't win you're still there and one of the top teams in the nation.
"We were rated No. 8 in the nation and finished No. 7. It was a good learning experience, proving to everyone what we can do."
Central Lakes 400 302 0 -- 9 8 0
Hesston 202 000 0 -- 4 5 3
Hesston -- Michelle Wade, Tana Rangel (7) and Kelly Borton. CLC -- Nanette Ostlund, Jenny Sovich (7) and Lee Zahler, Lisa Stumpf (5). WP -- Ostlund. LP -- Wade. HR -- Heidi Collins (H). Overall -- CLC finished 22-11.
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