NEW ULM - In the case of New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds softball, it's better to be the intimidator rather than the intimidatee.
When the Greyhounds take the field in their brown uniforms, many area opposing coaches will say Cathedral has already taken the lead. (Think New York Yankees or any other major league club versus the Chicago Cubs.)
So as the Greyhounds take the field Saturday against Blooming Prairie in their journey to grab a state championship, why is it they are the ones who always seem to have the "what, me worry" attitude?
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Cathedral senior Paige Pautzke is the leadoff hitter for the Greyhounds this season. Pictured in the background is head coach Bob Mertz.
"We're just a very confident team," Cathedral coach Bob Mertz said as he completes his 34th year at the Greyhounds helm. "We do a lot of things maybe other coaches don't have an opportunity to do. Our expectations are very high and we want to continue that philosophy."
Going into the season, no one gave Cathedral slugger's chance of advancing in the state tournament because they had two freshman pitchers and a third freshman in left field. They had only two seniors, second baseman Paige Pautzke and shortstop Lisa Helget, then lost Helget for the middle of the season with an injury and were 3-4 during her absence.
But Helget returned in time for the playoffs, the "Rocky" theme song came on and opponents started hitting the mat.
"This year was so unexpected," Helget said. "I think having me gone made the team realize everyone had to step up and come together as a team. We're the ones going into these games with nothing to lose. Opponents have to come in with senior pitchers, they have things to lose and we just play the game."
"We're just relaxed and know what to do and what we can do," Pautzke said. "We trust our pitchers (Leah Krzmarzick and Anna Mohr). We're glad to be going and I want to make it count because it's my last year."
And the young hurlers and left fielder are just happy to be going and able to count on senior leadership, catcher Karlee Pfaff and centerfielder Anne Schwarz. Mohr is 9-3 with a 1.90 earned run average, while Krzmarzick is 7-2 with a 1.97 ERA. Rothmeier ended the year with a .353 batting average with 24 hits.
"It's really exciting to be this far," Rothmeier said. "I was really nervous early but I feel more comfortable in the batter's box and in the field with Anne."
"It's what we were going for at the beginning of the season, Mohr said. "I'm a little nervous, but still excited." Although both pitchers have the arms, Pfaff has the experience to call the games for them and help in one other place. "Karlee has a really strong arm and can pick off anyone, but she calls most of the game."
The Greyhounds have scored 172 runs in 24 games and are led by Helget's .500 batting average and five home runs, while Pfaff has four home runs and leads the team with 31 RBI. Abby Hauser is another strong bat, with a .466 average and 26 RBI, while Schwarz is hitting .350 with four homers and 24 RBI, with clutch hitting in the playoffs.
Last year, Blooming Prairie defeated Cathedral at the state tournament with a walk-off base on balls and the Awesome Blossoms have a senior pitcher who has 249 strikeouts in just 149 innings, which is a pretty intimidating stat.
Just not to the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds.