This one is hard to describe. Michael Kerber, never one to search for words, used the analogy of a horse race.
Eric Pelant settled on “unbelievable.”
St. Cloud Cathedral beat Proctor 9-8 in nine long, wild, unusual innings Friday afternoon at Dick Putz Field.
“It’s like (pitching coach) Paul Gross says,” Kerber said. “Never say ‘whoa’ in a horse race.”
The Crusaders play Holy Family Catholic for the state Class 2A championship at 3 p.m. Monday at Target Field.
Holy Family (24-4) beat Fairmont 3-0 in Thursday’s other Class 2A semifinal at Putz.
The Crusaders, winners of seven state titles since 1977, attempt to repeat as state champions for the first time in school history.
“It feels awesome,” Cathedral catcher Bo Schmitz said. “It’s a blessing to even play on that field.”
Cathedral gets to with another improbable rally. The Crusaders have had a number of them this season, including several in the playoffs.
For Cathedral fans, think about the comebacks against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Albany in the Section 6-2A playoffs, then multiply them by 10.
“I think this is one of the more improbable ways we’ve worked ourselves into the championship,” said Bob Karn, in his 42nd season as Cathedral’s head coach with a 655-271 career record. “We’ve had our share of come-from-behind wins before. But not this many times or this way.”
So much happened Friday it’s hard to decide where to start.
“I wouldn’t have any idea how to write about this game,” admitted Karn, an English teacher.
Proctor led 3-0 after the first inning. Cathedral starter Jeff Fasching, a sophomore left-hander and the Crusaders’ ace, left after four batters, walking three and hitting one.
Cathedral got a run in the third on Logan Schramel’s sacrifice fly. At that point, Cathedral trailed 3-1 and neither team had a hit.
The Rails extended their lead to 4-1 in the fourth. But Cathedral rallied for four runs in the fifth.
It was a rally that was nothing short of bizarre. With one out, Tommy McMorrow walked, Kerber singled, Michael Ellingson was hit by a pitch. Then pinch-hitter Steve Neutzling was hit by another pitch to bring in one run.
Then, Waylon Bemboom reached first on catcher’s interference. Bemboom believed the catcher may have been trying to pick Kerber off third. Kerber, as is his wont, was dancing down the line, taking a big lead and trying to distract the Rails.
“When Kerber’s on base, there is always something weird going on,” Bemboom said with a grin.
Then, Matt Dodge became the third Crusader hit by a pitch. Brian Minks followed with an RBI single and the runs were in.
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Kerber said. “We couldn’t really settle down.
“We couldn’t get any flow. And every time we got something going, they’d respond.”
Proctor tied it up in the seventh, scoring on a bases-loaded walk to Ian Scherber. By this time, Cathedral was on its fourth pitcher.
Minks came in and threw four innings, then Ellingson went 21/3 and then Pelant, who went seven innings Thursday, went 12/3.
Out of options, Karn brought in Minks to finish up.
He gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth. But that was only after the Crusaders scored four in the top of the ninth. Key hits included a two-run single by Bemboom , an RBI single by Minks and a hard-hit infield single by Schmitz that scored a run.
“I was definitely due,” Bemboom admitted.
Cathedral is in a state championship game for the ninth time in school history. The Crusaders have won seven of their eight previous state final appearances, finishing second to Greenway of Coleraine in 1987, 14-11 in a game played at the Metrodome.
“I’m exhausted,” Karn said. “And all I had to do was walk from the dugout to the third base coaches’ box. Of course, I had to walk out to the mound a lot.
“Maybe that’s why I’m so exhausted.”
There were more than a few things that happened that you just don’t see everyday. There were the three hit batters in one inning, a catcher’s interference call and five Cathedral pitching changes, including Minks coming in twice as a reliever.
“When I go out to the mound, I usually try to settle down the pitcher by telling him that I’m just out here so that I can have my name announced on the radio,” Karn said. “Today, I got my name on the radio too much.”
It was good for a laugh this day.
Minks wound up 3-for-5 with two RBI. Kerber was 2-for-3 with three runs scored. Bemboom, Dodge and Schmitz all had hits.
For Proctor, which came back to win the third-place game 6-0 over Fairmont, first baseman Ryan McCarthy went 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI.
Catcher Cody Dolsen, third baseman Paul Hegstrom and Scherber all added two hits.
Amidst all that, there were six errors, including four for Cathedral. There were 13 walks, eight by Crusaders pitchers. There were five players hit by pitches; Cathedral hit two Proctor batters.
Karn wouldn’t have been terribly surprised had aliens landed on the field afterward.
“If you wrote that as science fiction or fantasy, you could throw it away because no one would believe you,” Karn said.