By Jeremy Behnke
Journal Sports Editor
NEW ULM - Before the season began, New Ulm Cathedral catcher Karlee Pfaff was poised to not only lead her team to the state tournament, but bring home a state title as well.
Staff illustration by Steve Muscatello
The senior managed to accomplish both goals, leading the Greyhounds and head coach Bob Mertz to their seventh state title earlier this month. Pfaff, who will take her softball talents to St. Ben's next year, was named the 2014 All-Journal Softball Player of the Year, as voted on by The Journal's sports writers. It is the third time she has been selected to the All-Journal team.
Pfaff's presence in the lineup was felt by opposing teams. She hit .453 this past year with four home runs and 30 RBIs. She ended her career with a .390 batting average and 133 hits. She was named the Tomahawk Conference Player of the Year and was an All-State selection.
While many teams feared her at the plate, they were even more nervous of her when she was behind the plate, so much so that they didn't attempt to steal many bases against her. She threw out 60 percent of would-be base stealers and knew how to call a good game for the young pitching staff.
"It's an important position and with the young pitchers we had, it was really a blessing," Mertz said. "She did such a great job and in the last couple of years, I never had to worry about calling pitches."
Offensively, Pfaff was also in the middle of a deep Cathedral lineup. The Greyhounds hit .382 as a team and slugged 20 home runs. It was a lineup that was in attack mode all season.
"I think it says a lot about the team too," Pfaff said. "Every one of us had big hits for us this year. If one of us went 0-for-3, someone else had a big game."
For Pfaff and the rest of the seniors, a state championship was about the only thing that wasn't accomplished going into this season.
"Us seniors, we'd all been playing since our sophomore year, or up on the team," Pfaff said. "We had experience and those past years that we just didn't get there, I knew what it felt like to get third or I knew what it felt like to lose out. All five of us were hungry for that [state championship]."
The championship was a fitting end for Pfaff and the seniors.
"It's amazing," Pfaff said. "Everyone always says 'put a banner on the wall,' and this year it was like leaving our marks. It's all we had left, why not go out with a bang?"