NORTH MANKATO - For New Ulm Cathedral coach Bob Mertz, his team's game against Mankato Loyola lived up to its billing.
A two-RBI ground-rule double by junior Anne Schwarz in the first inning of that game was what gave the Greyhounds the 2-1 tooth-and-nail victory in the Section 2A finals of the winner's bracket between the top-ranked subsection teams on Saturday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
"We don't talk about it but they know ... all year long, it was going to be New Ulm Cathedral and Mankato Loyola," Mertz said. "And we wanted to give them a blemish."
Staff photo by Mark Newsom
New Ulm Cathedral’s Lindsay Simon slides into second base and collides with Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Larissa Helget during their game in the Section 2A semifinals on Saturday morning at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
The Crusaders (20-1, 9-0 Valley), who are the No. 1 seed in the South Subsection, were stuck trying to get past sophomore pitcher Anna Mohr, who forced them into quick outs for a good portion of the game.
Mohr gave up five hits total as well as one earned run in the top of the fourth, but got out of the circle ultimately unscathed with the complete-game win for the Greyhounds (22-1, 16-0 Tomahawk).
"On the real good hitters, she really hit her spots and didn't allow them to get the big hits," said senior catcher Karlee Pfaff of Mohr.
Following a sac fly RBI by Kayla Gross that scored Aunikah Bastian to cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth, Cathedral had an opportunity to create more distance in the sixth inning, when Pfaff hit a first-pitch single, Lindsay Simon reached on an error and Schwarz notched a first-pitch single to load the bases.
Loyola pitcher Katie Homan got out of the jam with a forceout at home on a fielder's choice in the next at-bat before getting Mohr to pop up and MacKinnon Ehlenz to fly out to center to leave the bases loaded.
MaKenna Elert made things interesting with a two-out double to the right-field corner in the top of the seventh, but did not go anywhere as Ellie Hoffmann grounded out to end the game.
Cathedral got to its highly touted bout with Loyola by beating No. 2-seeded Sleepy Eye St. Mary's 11-1 in five innings earlier in the day.
The Knights (16-7, 11-5) were led off in the game by a ground-rule double from Larissa Helget, but were unable to move her around in tallying three-straight outs.
Cathedral then put up eight runs in the first inning - a string that was highlighted by a grand slam from freshman shortstop McKenna Berdan.
"It was in the area that I wanted to hit it - not too high, not too low," Berdan said of the pitch she received. "It's pretty big that we got eight of our runs in the first inning because that gave us confidence for the game and kept our energy up."
That prompted a pitching change for St. Mary's, taking out Laura Pelzel and in favor of Anna Lux. Pelzel got the loss, having given up six runs (four earned) in 1/3 of an inning's work.
Errors plagued the Knights, who committed three in the first inning, two in the second and one in the next three to account for five unearned runs that moved across the plate.
"Defensively, that first inning really hurt us," said St. Mary's coach Wendy Owens. "We had errors there and they ended up scoring runs with those errors and the home run kind of deflated us a little bit, but we came back."
Ashley Helget hit a one-out double in the second inning, but was left stranded. Bethany Berkner also connected for a single in the fourth.
The Knights managed to strike, however, when Larissa Helget drove in Pelzel, who reached on an error, in the fifth for their lone run of the game.
"It's hard to battle back, but they tried," Owens said. "I give them the credit for at least trying. They didn't come back and give up six more runs in the second inning, they at least made it a little bit more interesting."
St. Mary's defeated Martin County West 5-4 in its consolation round game and will play Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The winner of that game will play Loyola at 7 p.m. for the right to face Cathedral for a state berth.
St. Mary's has not made the state tournament since 2007.
Cathedral needs only one more win to return to state, which it will try to get on Thursday at Caswell Park against the winner of the consolation bracket.
"We like this route here," Mertz said. "We get a little time off now. We'll come together Tuesday, Wednesday and then go to work Thursday."
St. Mary's 000 01 - 1 3 8
Cathedral 810 02 - 11 8 2
L Pelzel, Lux (1) and Berkner; A Mohr, Krzmarzick (4) and Pfaff.
W - A Mohr (C) 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
L - L Pelzel (S) 1/3 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Leading hitters - St. Mary's: L Helget 1-3 1 RBI 2B, Berkner 1-2, A Helget 1-2 2B; Cathedral: Rothmeier 3-4 1 RBI 2 R 3B, Pfaff 1-3 1 RBI 1 R 1 BB 2B, M Berdan 1-3 4 RBI 1 R HR (GS), A Mohr 2-2 1 RBI.
Winner's Bracket Finals
Loyola 000 100 0 - 1 5 1
Cathedral 200 000 x - 2 5 0
Homan and Helget; A Mohr and Pfaff.
W - A Mohr (C) 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
L - Homan (L) 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K
Leading hitters - Loyola: Dose 1-3, Bastian 2-3 1 R 2B, Elert 1-3 2B; Cathedral: Schabert 1-2 1 BB, Pfaff 2-3, Schwarz 2-3 2 RBI 2B.