NORTH MANKATO - It was a long, hard-fought day for New Ulm Cathedral in the Class A softball state tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato Thursday.
The Greyhounds won their quarterfinal matchup against Red Lake Falls 10-0 in six innings, but then they fell into a bit of trouble in the semifinals. Cathedral held a 2-0 lead through five innings, but Blooming Prairie finally got to pitcher Ali Brey for two runs in the sixth and then a walk-off walk in the seventh won it as the Greyhounds fell 3-2 and will now play for third place today at 11:00 a.m. at Caswell Park.
Brey pitched both games for Cathedral. She went all six innings in the first game, allowing just five hits, and she went 6 2/3 innings in the second game. Brey threw 11 2/3 straight scoreless innings before she allowed a two-run double with two outs in the sixth. Blooming Prairie's Tessa Ivers drove Brey's two-strike pitch into left-center field tying the game at 2-2.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Cathedral catcher Karlee Pfaff makes a catch as teammate Kristi Larson (17) looks on during the Greyhounds’ win against Red Lake Falls in the opening round of the Class A State Softball Tournament Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
Cathedral went down quickly in the top of the seventh and the Blossoms ended it in the bottom of the seventh.
Brey hit Tricia DeBoer to lead off the final inning, then Jenna Krell reached on an error and advanced to second while DeBoer moved within sixty feet of victory. Cathedral intentionally walked Hunter Henderson to load the bases with nobody out.
Brey got the next batter to fly out to left and followed with a huge strikeout that brought Ivers to the plate. Brey fell behind in the count 3-1 and the pay-off pitch was in the dirt, leaving Blooming Prairie to move on to the state championship game.
"Tough way to lose," Cathedral head coach Bob Mertz said. "Wow, you never want that to happen - a bases-loaded walk. We had to go with the strategies, we had to load up the bases and hope for a force out. Everything was working fine, you just don't want to see that happen."
The Greyhounds didn't have any problems against Red Lake Falls earlier in the day. They held a 2-0 lead after four innings, then exploded for six runs in the fifth and capped things off with two more in the sixth to end it.
Cathedral batted around in the bottom of the fifth. Abby Hauser had a two-run single and Paige Pautzke had a two-run double in the inning. Amy Eckstein also got one of her four hits in the game as she drove an RBI single into center field.
Hauser had another RBI hit in the sixth as she blooped one into center field to end the game due to the 10-run rule.
"It took us a while to get going here," Mertz said after the first game. "Swinging at pitches that were not our pitches, we were too aggressive and we were just not waiting for our pitches. After a while we were starting to hit around. Ali pitched a nice game and we played very nice defense."
Mertz said that having Brey pitch both games, 12 2/3 innings total, was not his team's downfall.
"Ali is strong enough to go through two games, easily," he said. "We had a break in between games - she is a strong girl, she throws a lot of balls. In summer league she throws three or four games, so she is used to it. It just wasn't our day. Hats off to Blooming Prairie, they played well. They got the big hit when they needed it and it just wasn't meant to be, I guess."
Cathedral has won the consolation championship the past two season, and now Mertz has his sights of stepping up the podium to third.
"I feel bad for Ali, it's her senior year - we were hoping to get to that championship game," Mertz said. "But now we are going for third. Two years ago we were consolation champs, last year we were consolation champs. Hopefully we can get a third place finish."