NORTH MANKATO - One small step for softball, one giant leap for the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds.
Once again, Cathedral has won the Section 2A championship and advances to the state tournament by handing a 7-1 loss to its old rival, Mankato Loyola.
The Greyhounds start tournament play at Caswell Park next Thursday at 11 a.m. against the winner of Section 6A.
Photo coutesy of Don Borstad
Anna Mohr winds up a pitch at during New Ulm Cathedral’s Section 2A championship game against Mankato Loyola on Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. Cathedral won 7-1 to advance to the state tournament.
The Greyhounds' path to win was so convincing, park workers moved the table with the medals and winners plaque behind Cathedral's dugout before the Crusaders were finished batting in the top of the sixth.
"We played our game," Cathedral coach Bob Mertz said. "We were better today. It's so nice to win the tournament outright and not [lose] and have to play another game. We have such great leaders on this team."
Two of those were the battery combination of pitcher Anna Mohr and catcher Karlee Pfaff. Mohr allowed only five baserunners - three with hits and two walks.
"I was pitching the same as when we played them last time," Mohr said. "They were hitting the same stuff, but Karlee called the game. She's really good at knowing when to call something."
Loyola scored a run in the top of the first, but Cathedral came right back to tie it in its half of the inning on a triple by Morgan Schabert triple and a bunt hit by Abby Hauser.
The Greyhounds third started with MacKinnon Ehlenz reaching on an error, followed by a bunt hit from fleet-footed leadoff hitter Jenessa Rothmeier. Ehlenz scored on a solid hit to left by Schabert for a 2-1 Cathedral lead. Then things got interesting.
On Hauser's bunt, Rothmeier was initially called out at home, but after some discussion, the umpire changed the ruling to obstruction by the catcher wiping away the out and making it 3-1.
A soft single to right by Anne Schwarz widened the margin to 4-1.
Great defense helped Mohr out of a jam in the fourth when the Crusaders loaded the bases but couldn't score after a couple of walks and a base hit. Rothmeier retired Loyola with a nice catch on a long drive by Crusaders leadoff hitter Rae Dose.
"My heart was pounding on that one," Rothmeier said. "I felt like the team was relying on me. It was a big catch."
Cathedral nailed down the win in the fourth with two outs, started by a bloop hit to left by Rothmeier. Schabert reached on an error and Hauser was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Pfaff.
Down in the count 1-2 and not getting good swings, Pfaff then cleared the bases with a line single to right.
"I hit an outside pitch and just relaxed," Pfaff said. "I just told myself, 'one of these runners is coming in.'"
Loyola ends its season 21-2, its only two losses coming at the hands of Cathedral.