NEW ULM - If it's true that a pitcher is only as good as their defense, New Ulm Cathedral starting pitcher Leah Krzmarzick was fortunate that her teammates backed her with a stellar defensive effort in the Greyhounds' Tomahawk Conference softball game against Wabasso on Monday at Harman Park.
Making the first start of her freshman season, Krzmarzick held the Rabbits to two hits in 5 1/3 innings and her teammates turned some key double plays as the Greyhounds opened their season with an 8-5 victory.
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but once I settled down and knew I had a good defense behind me it made it a little easier," said Krzmarzick, who earned her second career varsity victory after having pitched five varsity innings last year. "We had some really great double plays."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Cathedral’s MacKinnon Ehlenz (7) congratulates teammate Karlee Pfaff after Pfaff hit a home run during the Greyhounds’ win against Wabasso Monday at Harman Park in New Ulm.
Wabasso took a 2-0 lead after scoring a pair or unearned runs in the top of the third inning, but Cathedral scored four runs in the bottom of the frame and received some key insurance on a two-run home run by Karlee Pfaff in the bottom of the sixth inning to hold on for the victory.
"I think our bats helped a lot tonight and our defense was key," Pfaff said. "We had a lot of good plays, and that really helped us out to give us confidence on offense."
Krzmarzick - who also went 2-for-3 at the plate - allowed four runs (one earned) and struck out two batters, but walked four batters and hit an additional three. Kristin Mohr picked up the save by pitching the final 1 2/3 innings for the Greyhounds, allowing one run on two hits without allowing a walk.
Cathedral earned inning-ending double plays in the second, fifth and seventh innings to help back Krzmarzick and Mohr.
"I think we played real well defensively," Cathedral head coach Bob Mertz said. "We had some great plays defensively and just enough offense to get the job done."
Krzmarzick set down the Rabbits in order in the first inning, but she allowed a pair of one-out walks in the top of the second. The Greyhounds got out of the inning when Krzmarzick struck out Erin Liebl and Alyssa Rothmeier was doubled off of first base.
Greyhounds catcher Pfaff dropped the third strike during Liebl's at bat, which caused some confusion on the base paths that helped lead to the double play.
The Rabbits opened the game's scoring in the top of the third. Callie Rohlik led off the inning with a single and scored when Becky Franta hit into a fielder's choice that ended up with Krzmarzick throwing the ball past second base and all the way to the center field fence. Franta was driven in by Ellen Franta, who hit into a fielder's choice two batters later.
Wabasso starting pitcher Kimberly Frank (six innings pitched, 12 hits, seven earned runs, one walk, seven strikeouts) struck out five batters and stranded two runners over the first two innings, but Cathedral finally broke through against her in the bottom of the third.
Paige Pautzke (2-for-4, two doubles) hit a one-out double and Morgan Schabert earned a walk to begin a four-run rally as the Greyhounds took a 4-2 lead. Cathedral followed with an RBI double by Lisa Helget (3-for-4, three RBI, two runs), an RBI single on a hard grounder by Pfaff (2-for-4, three RBI, two runs), a sacrifice fly by Anne Schwarz and an RBI double by MacKinnon Ehlenz.
Helget added a two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning to increase Cathedral's lead to 6-2.
Frank reached base with one out in the top of the fifth when she was hit by a pitch, but Shawna Rogotzke followed with a line-out to Pautzke at second base, with Pautzke doubling Frank off at first.
Wabasso cut the lead to 6-4 with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. The Rabbits loaded the bases with one out in the inning, at which point Mohr come in to relieve Krzmarzick. A passed ball allowed Ellen Franta to score from third and Liebl drove in Kendra Eichten on an RBI groundout, but Mohr got Rohlik to pop out to second to end the threat.
Helget earned a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth and was driven home when Pfaff hit a towering home run that just cleared the fence in left field to make the score 8-4.
"Just going up there I saw Lisa on base and I knew I wanted to advance her some way, or give someone else the opportunity," Pfaff said. "Of course when you have a good hit it feels good. I just knew I got the bottom two-thirds of the ball and was hoping for the best."
Rohlik tracked Pfaff's home run all the way to the fence, but the ball dropped just past Rohlik's reach and she was sent toppling head over heels as she ran into the fence.
The Rabbits scored one run in the top of the seventh when Frank hit a one-out double and Rogotzke drove her in with a single, but Ellen Franta followed by lining out to Schabert at third base, after which Schabert threw to second to double off Rogotzke to end the game.
"I think it gives us a lot of confidence," Krzmarzick said of the victory. "We're definitely going to use this win to help us push for more wins and keep us going throughout the season."
Wabasso (0-1) is scheduled to host Sleepy Eye St. Mary's today and Cathedral (1-0) is scheduled to play at Comfrey/Cedar Mountain on Thursday, but both games face the potential of being postponed with bad weather forecast for most of the rest of the week.