Carlton Heat scores with laid-back approachIf you’ve watched the Carlton Heat softball team this summer, it’s likely they were having a good time. That’s how they operate. For the Heat, softball is all about fun.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
If you’ve watched the Carlton Heat softball team this summer, it’s likely they were having a good time. That’s how they operate.
For the Heat, softball isn’t too serious. It’s all about fun.
“They’re always laughing,” said Carlton Coach Cassie Benson, “They’re a very light-hearted group that enjoying having a good time.”
The Heat plays in the Lake Superior Fastpitch League in the 18-and-Under age division and has compiled a 6-4 overall record in 10 games this summer. But most of the players couldn’t tell you that.
“To be honest, I’m not sure what our record is,” said pitcher Megan Bodin with a laugh. “We just like having fun.”
Carlton’s easy-going, loose-playing and upbeat attitude is reflected throughout the team. Considering the Heat’s roster is made up of almost the entire Carlton High School varsity team from this past spring – a squad that won 16 games and played in the Section 7A championship – that might be surprising to some.
Bodin, the team’s mainstay hurler, as well as experienced infielders Brooke Camps, Christy Eggert and Megan Nelson are the team’s centerpieces. Clarissa Nelson is the squad’s centerfielder and a key
Grace Macor and Hannah Benson are also a couple of younger players who are making a difference.
But really, they all can play anywhere, Benson said.
“They’re a versatile bunch,” she said. “They can do
Benson coached the Carlton U-14 team a summer ago and, after coaching junior high years back, she was the school’s junior varsity coach this past spring, helping guide the Bulldogs.
The jump from 14s to 18s has been a big one for Benson.
“It’s different,” she said, “but these girls are such a close-knit team. They all get along. They can joke around, but they know when to focus, too.”
Like most coaches would tell you, Benson said that playing in the summer is about improvement. But unlike some programs, Carlton sticks together. They all play on one diamond in the summer.
“I think that really strengthens our program,” Benson continued. “Our numbers are growing, and that’s a good thing.”
Carlton also sports a U-14 team, called the Carlton Explosion. Benson said they’re getting better too.
“I watched them tonight,” she said. “They’re pretty young. It’s basically our whole junior varsity team out there, but they’re developing and have come a long way. That’s nice to see.”
Carlton has a U-12 and U-10 team, too.
Camps is the Heat’s second baseman, a speedy player who can hit the ball and run the bases with the best of them. She explained that she and her teammates always played at their age level as they were growing up, but this summer, they decided to move up. Camps said it’s been a good jump.
“We like playing at a high level,” she said. “We used to play at our age level, but playing up now really gives us something to look forward to. It’s a challenge every week, and we like that.”
Playing tough with upper-level teams weekly, it’s the Heat’s cohesion that separates them from others, Camps noted.
“We’ve all been playing together since we were in third grade,” she continued. “I like knowing everyone.”
So does Bodin.
“It’s pretty unique,” she said. “We all know each other so well and are used to everything we do. We have fun, but are competitive at the same time.
“We’re improving, too,” Bodin continued. “And you only improve by playing tough competition. It’s a challenge.”
Benson said that although it’s tough to get everyone to practice once a week at Chub Lake Park because of jobs and other sports going on, the girls are hard workers and always willing to put in the time and effort.
“It’s tough at times with everything going on,” Benson said. “We’ll have some kids gone for State, too, but I couldn’t ask for a better group.”
Camps said her favorite sport is softball, especially playing with her friends.
“We don’t take things too seriously,” Camps laughed. “But we have a limit. We realize when we need to step it up.
“I wish we could play more.”
The Heat will play their next doubleheader at the Wade Stadium fields on Thursday, July 14, against Superior at 5:30 p.m. and Proctor at 7 p.m. They’ll also play at Wade at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21.
Carlton will close their summer season participating in the ASA Class C state tournament at Braun Park in Cloquet from July 22-24.
And you can bet they’ll be having a good time.