SEVERN, MD. -- Two years ago Central Lakes College didn't even have a softball team.
Last year the Raiders won only two games.
On Friday CLC completed their 2000 season with a victory -- at the Division III Community College National Tournament.
To say Central Lakes has made a turnaround would be a huge understatement and a bit of an injustice.
"What the team has accomplished in one year is incredible. Last year they won two games and a year later, they're one of the top eight teams in the nation.":
Dennis Eastman, Raiders' coach
The Raiders, who were competing in the school's first-ever softball national tournament, beat Hesston (Kan.) 9-4 in the seventh-place game at Randazzo Park and finished the season 22-11. CLC lost two games Thursday on opening day of the tournament.
"It's one of those happy/sad moments," Raiders' coach Dennis Eastman said. "You're happy you've won, but this is the end and that's the sad part.
"What the team has accomplished in one year is incredible. Last year they won two games and a year later, they're one of the top eight teams in the nation.
"I'd like to think it was me, but it was them because they played hard and committed themselves to the game."
Four Raiders -- Jolene Otteson, Tracy Bohall, Suzy Baratto and Nanette Ostlund -- battled through the difficult 2-25 season and found gold at the end of the rainbow. After the victory Friday, their freshman teammates sang and chanted in tribute to the elder statesmen.
"First of all it's really a privilege we had a chance to come here and win the last game of the year," said first baseman Bohall, who is from Pequot Lakes. "We had a lot different attitude this year. The coaching staff expected more -- we just wanted to have a team last year.
"It was a learning experience, but we wouldn't have had a team this year if it wasn't for last year. It wouldn't be good if Central Lakes didn't have a softball team, especially after this year."
One thing the Raiders did all year was have fun, and that was especially evident in Friday's win.
"It was a lot of fun this season," said Ostlund, a pitcher from Bertha who picked up the final victory of the season. "Everybody got along and the attitude was good; there was no bickering."
The core of the 14-person roster are freshmen and many expect to be back next season, so the possibility of a return trip is a reality. The top four hitters -- Becki Wagner, Amy Martinson, Becky Poster and Destiny Smith -- and the team leader in pitching, Jenny Sovich, are all freshmen this year.
"It's not going to be easy to live up to," Eastman said. "I've been coaching basketball for a long time and we're considered a national power and we've only been to nationals once.
"But this year's team never gave up. They're fighters. They are 14 individuals that play as a team and that's what you always want. They all are unique individuals, but when they put their uniforms on, then they are all Raiders."
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