St. Cloud Cathedral's Waylon Bemboom (28) was late in joining the celebration by teammates at the end of their Class 2A state tournament win over La Crescent. Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
Going into Wednesday’s Class 2A championship baseball game, St. Cloud Cathedral was brimming with confidence. The opponent, La Crescent, was battling nerves.
With Andrew Thome pitching with economy and efficiency and a defense honed to a fine edge, St. Cloud Cathedral beat La Crescent 6-1.
It was the seventh championship in 15 state tournament appearances for the Crusaders, all under the leadership of Bob Karn, who completed his 41st year as head coach and resident sage.
“It’s all Mr. Karn,” said Thome, who pitched a two-hitter, throwing only 74 pitches over seven innings. “He is the most respected man I’ve ever met. He always gets you ready to play.”
For his part — and one reason he’s had the success he’s had — Karn deflected any praise aimed his way, preferring to focus attention on his players. The Crusaders, 2011 version, were a team without a rear-view mirror.
“What’s unusual about this team, and probably its greatest asset, is the ability to learn from their mistakes,” Karn said. “They learn and they get better.”
It helped, of course, to have a pitcher such as Thome on the mound. Blessed with a long frame and a plus-fastball, Thome’s biggest strength is his ability to throw all of the pitches in his repertoire for strikes. He set La Crescent down 1-2-3 in five of his seven innings and did not walk a batter.
“You could tell that he was going to have a good game in the bullpen during warmups,” Karn said. “His fastball had a lot of life on it.”
For the better part of three innings, Thome and La Crescent starter Eric Veglahn took turns throwing up zeroes. Eighteen batters came to the plate before the game’s first hit, a two-out infield single by Cathedral’s Matt Dodge in the bottom of the third inning.
Thome made sure Dodge’s hit wasn’t wasted, following with an RBI double for a 1-0 lead.
La Crescent tied the score in its next at-bat when Troy Traxler tripled — Thome’s only mistake — and scored on Travis Krukow’s sacrifice fly.
Cathedral regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth and broke the game open with four unearned runs in the fifth.
With Thome dealing on the mound, La Crescent’s chances were essentially over.
“It gives us so much confidence with Thome on the mound,” Cathedral designated hitter Matt Dietman said. “After that first inning, we knew it was our game.”
La Crescent coach Rick Boyer agreed that, on this day at least, his team was overmatched.
“Thome was really, really good, but nerves were a factor for us,” Boyer said. “We made him look even better. We went fishing and the fish weren’t biting.”