Hounding effort lifts Greyhounds back to state

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Above: New Ulm Cathedral players celebrate after clinching a state tournament berth with a win over Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s on Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

NORTH MANKATO — It was going to take a never-say-die attitude and a pair of wins over an undefeated team Thursday night for the second-seeded New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds to earn a trip back to the state tournament.

And while the odds were against them, the Greyhounds were relentless in their approach and did what they set out to do.

After coming back to beat top-seeded Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 3-2 in the first game of the Section 2A Softball Tournament finals at Caswell Park, the Greyhounds kept rolling with a 10-0 win in six innings to earn a return trip to the Class A State Softball Tournament for the first time since 2019.

The Greyhounds (17-6) needed to beat the Knights (19-2), who were undefeated heading into Thursday, in a 5 p.m. game to force a second game later in the night.

The Knights needed just one win.

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Cathedral’s Kiah Helget runs home in celebration after homering during the second game of the Section 2A Softball Tournament finals on Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

While that one win appeared to be well in the hands of the Knights in the first game as they held a 2-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, the Greyhounds battled back and eventually got the go-ahead run to score on a double by Ava Brennan.

“We all know that Lacey [Mathiowetz] has a really good rise ball, so we were all just trying to lay off that and if we were going to hit it, we’ve got to get our hands up, drive it,” Ava Brennan said. “As far as pressure-wise, stay in the game, keep your heads in it, don’t get too amped, don’t get down on yourselves. We all kind of picked up the energy and knew that we had to rely on each other to keep each other up and going.”

Megan Haala got the complete-game win in Game 1, allowing one earned run on six hits and two walks while striking out one.

Mathiowetz, the Knights’ starting pitcher, allowed just four hits and two walks in all seven innings of the Game 1 loss, but the Greyhounds capitalized on a couple of errors and wild pitches late.

The Knights took their 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Kallie Zarn in the first and an RBI single by Alexa Pelzel in the fourth. Alexa Hornick scored the first run of the first game for the Greyhounds in the fifth after reaching on a bloop single and later scoring on an error. A wild pitch allowed Cathedral to tie it in the seventh before Ava Brennan’s RBI double put her team ahead.

In the winner-take-all second game, the Greyhounds definitely took all, striking right away in the first with an RBI double by Jenna Hotovec, who was 3 for 4 with two RBIs. They added two more runs in the third on a leadoff homer to left-center by Kiah Helget and a wild pitch that scored Lily Brennan.

A four-run fourth inning saw RBI singles from Lily Brennan and Hotovec, and a two-run single by Sydnee Helget give the Greyhounds a 7-0 lead. Kiah Helget got her second hit of the game with an RBI single in the fifth before an RBI single by Ava Brennan and a sac fly by Madelyn Haala gave the Greyhounds the 10-0 early win in six.

Megan Haala pitched all seven innings again in Game 2, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out three. She retired the last 11 batters she saw.

“The offense is a huge part because it lifts a lot of weight off of my back, so I know they can recover if they get runs,” Megan Haala said. “So I know we can always bounce back no matter what happens. Pitching-wise, I just throw strikes and if they hit the ball, they hit the ball, but I know I have a good defense behind me as well.”

The Knights got a single each from Bella Hoffmann, Mathiowetz and Addie Hoffmann in the Game 2 loss. Mathiowetz took the loss in 3 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and striking out one before being relieved by Bella Hoffmann.

Greyhounds head coach Jamie Kuehn said the fact that her squad entered into Thursday’s finals with three prior defeats to St. Mary’s this season and less to lose as a result paid off.

“We came in knowing that they had more to lose than we did,” Kuehn said. “They were the No. 1 seed, they had already beaten us three times this year, nobody else had beaten them and we knew that we just had to keep grinding and show our grit. That Martin County West game (a 3-2 win on May 25 in the first round of the playoffs) ended up being really important because it showed we can come back. And we just kept tacking on runs, and it worked.”

The Greyhounds will play a team to be determined at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Caswell Park in the first round of the state tourney.


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