There was no epiphany, no magic moment, when St. Cloud Cathedral figured out its pitching rotation.
It just happened as the season progressed.
Sophomore left-hander Jeff Fasching emerged as someone counted upon in the big games. Senior left-hander Eric Pelant became the perfect complement to Fasching. Right-handers Michael Ellingson and Brian Minks became key relievers.
“Once the playoffs started, it all came together at the perfect time,” Pelant said. “We knew we had solid pitching no matter who was out there.”
It has helped Cathedral (22-5) earn its 15th berth into the state Class 2A baseball tournament and second in a row.
The Crusaders, defending state champions, will play Delano (18-7) at 5:30 p.m. today at Dick Putz Field.
“I’m excited,” Pelant said. “It should be a fun week.”
“We’re glad to be back,” senior outfielder Waylon Bemboom said.
Fasching (8-0, 1.24 ERA) is expected to be on the mound against the Tigers, who are expected to start senior right-hander Tyler Wolfe (5-1, 0.89).
“I know they’ve got that really good player (Wolfe) and the others are all solid,” Fasching said, noting that he knew little about Delano.
Fasching, whose father is St. John’s University assistant football coach Gary Fasching, emerged to throw 62 innings this spring, striking out 78 and walking 35.
Pelant (6-1, 1.75) chipped in with 48 innings in seven starts. He struck out 47 and walked 22.
Ellingson (3-4, 1.97, 1 save) has had 15 appearances, including four starts. Minks (2-0, 1.62) went six innings in relief in the Section 6-2A championship game against Albany, in which the Crusaders went through the losers bracket and overcame a 4-0 deficit to win 7-4 in eight innings.
“When you’re down 1-0 (to Long Prairie-Grey Eagle) and facing elimination and you’re down 4-0 to Albany almost the whole, little doubts start to come through,” said Bemboom, a Lions All-Star who is headed to the University of St. Thomas to continue his baseball career. “But … we came through.”
All involved helped the Crusaders replace 2011 ace Andrew Thome. Thome, the Class 2A state player of the year, led Cathedral to a state championship and was a key starter this spring at the University of North Dakota.
The pitching situation was the No. 1 question mark for the Crusaders heading into the season. Fasching, who also plays football and basketball, has worn the ace role well.
“He has spent more than a small part of his life on competitive athletic fields,” said Cathedral head coach Bob Karn, who is third on the all-time victories list and has led the Crusaders to seven state championships since 1977. “He’s certainly not a stranger to it.”
Fasching said he wasn’t nervous in the section playoffs, even when the Crusaders were facing elimination. He said he was a lot more nervous when he was playing youth baseball and participating in World Series events in Virginia and New York.
“That made me nervous,” he said.
He’ll pitch on a team that plays solid defense and has hit just enough to win most games.
Junior third baseman Minks (.433, 31 RBI) leads the way offensively. Junior catcher Bo Schmitz (.373, 2 HR, 23 RBI), center fielder Bemboom (.371, 1 HR, 12 RBI) and second baseman Matt Dodge (.321, 1 HR, 16 RBI) have all had excellent offensive seasons.
Karn said a key has been the play of junior shortstop Logan Schramel, who is solidified the infield. First baseman Michael Kerber also has been strong defensively.
And now that they’ve gotten back to state, they’d like to take it as far as possible.
“Mr. Karn told us we’ve never repeated state championships back to back,” Kerber said. “Hopefully, that’s something we could put in the books.”
* Minks on playing in the playoffs and the state tournament on Cathedral’s home field: “It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “We just have more home fans. We have a lot of support.
“It’d be fun no matter where we played.”
* Karn on what BBCOR bats have done to high school baseball this season.
“The feel of these bats is much more comparable to wood bats,” said Karn, who compared today’s game to the 1960s before aluminum bats became widely used. “More teams have a chance to win more games in high school baseball.
“The chance of winning is better and the separation between the good-hitting teams and the weaker-hitting teams is more narrow. Aluminum tended to distort the separation.”
* Cathedral senior Sam Larsen used a bat he made at home for batting practice this week. Larsen has a lathe to make wood bats.
* Delano’s top hitters are Dean Halonen (.400, 8 RBI), Toby Hanson (.378, 16 RBI), Wolfe (.378, 22 RBI), Zach Muckenhirn (.368, 8 RBI) and Hunter Hart (.315, 7 RBI).
* All teams participated in a banquet Wednesday night at Cathedral. The featured speaker was Mayville State assistant coach Pete Pratt, a St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud State graduate and a former pitching coach for SCSU.