Many community college athletes play their allotted two years of athletics, then hang up their spikes, glove or jersey as they move on to a bigger school.
That wasn't the case for Brainerd natives Erin Thiesse and Cassey Veith.
Both played two years of softball at Central Lakes College. Thiesse was a member of the 2000 Raiders team that went to the school's first national softball tournament. The following year, Veith joined Thiesse at CLC and helped guide the Raiders to the 2001 national tournament. In 2002, Veith played an instrumental role in helping the Raiders win their first state championship since 1985.
Thiesse moved on to Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., where she played two years. As a senior this spring she started all 45 games for the Wolves.
Thiesse led the Wolves in runs scored (29) and triples (3), was second in stolen bases (14), fourth in RBI (15) and total bases (49), and fifth on the team in slugging percentage (.345) and hits (34).
Having the chance to face live pitching every day in practice is what Thiesse believes helped her the most in game situations.
"The pitching is different," said Thiesse. "Having that chance to practice against that kind of pitching every day really helps. When you face live pitching, you can see the rise and drops and the off-speed balls."
Veith also followed Thiesse to Northern State, and the Wolves were glad she did.
This spring the junior tore up opposing pitching on her way to receiving honorable mention on the All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference team.
Veith set NSU single-season school records with 46 hits and 11 doubles. She also led the Wolves with a .357 batting average, a .527 slugging percentage, 24 RBI, three home runs and 68 total bases. Veith's .390 on base-percentage was second on the team and she had a fielding percentage of .954, fifth best on the team.
"I didn't expect this at all," Veith said of her success. "I took a lot of batting practice and worked on my swing a lot this season."
One of Veith's biggest adjustments was also to opposing pitching. And, a more grueling travel schedule.
"Most teams had a lot of good bats and the pitching was different," said Veith. "I faced more pitchers that had rise balls and drop balls that I didn't see at community college.
"The traveling was time consuming. It seemed like we were always on the road going somewhere. But we usually got one good practice in before each game."
Veith was also thankful to be able to play with Thiesse. In addition to the year they spent together at CLC, the two also played in high school together.
"It was very nice to have Erin there," Veith said. "It was nice to have someone to talk to and get a ride home with."
Said Thiesse: "My first year I didn't know anyone at all. Cassey and I could talk and laugh and joke about things that happened back home. It was nice to have a friend at school that was close to me."
Thiesse is majoring in elementary education and will graduate next May. Although she won't don a Wolves uniform next year, Thiesse will still be involved with the program.
"I will be helping the team as much as I can," said Thiesse. "I've played softball all my life and I can't give it up. I talked to coach (Paula Krueger) if there was any way I could stay involved. I'll just do whatever coach has me do."
Veith, who is majoring in accounting and receiving a small scholarship from NSU, has one year of softball left.
Veith credited her two years of playing at CLC as one reason she's been able to step in and excel with the Wolves.
"Going to school for two years at CLC made it easier with getting work done and traveling," said Veith. "It just helped a lot with being able to get the small things done."
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