The Cathedral Crusaders will take on the Pierz Pioneers will face off Thursday evening at Dick Putz Field, with a trip to the state tournament on the line.

Cathedral has not lost thus far in the section tournament, with wins against Long Prairie, Holdingford, Albany and Foley. Crusaders coach Bob Karn said they have been playing fundamentally sound baseball during the postseason.

“We have pitched well, defended well, and we have gotten a couple of key hits,” Karn said. “I think we are playing good baseball right now.”

The Crusaders entered the tournament as the fourth seed and defeated top-seeded Albany 4-3 before beating #2-seeded Foley 5-0 in the section semifinal. With a 12-8 record during the regular season, Cathedral was not necessarily expected to be in this position.

“We are just happy to be able to play today,” Karn said. “It is different when you are expected to win, but we when go out we are really excited to be able to play and give ourselves a chance.”

The Pioneers have had Cathedral’s number the past few seasons, posting five straight wins against the Crusaders.  Cathedral defeated Pierz in late April 2016, but the Pioneers defeated the Crusaders twice during the 2016 postseason, once during the 2017 regular season and again in that year’s playoffs, then closed out the 2018 regular season with a 9-7 win in Pierz.

Coach Karn credits the Pioneers’ recent success to head coach Dan Saehr, and his “small-ball” philosophy.

“I think they are very well coached and have had some excellent pitching,” Karn said. “They probably are a team that plays the old cliché small ball better than any other team in the area.”

“They will bunt, suicide squeeze and are good at taking advantage of the runs they have available,” Karn said.

The Crusaders have gotten solid pitching performances during the tournament as well. Tyler Bautch went the distance in Cathedral’s 4-3 win over Albany on June 1st and Sam Hanson tossed a shutout in June 4th’s win over Foley.

While Cathedral got an extra day of rest on Tuesday, the Pioneers played a pair of games. Preston Rocheleau and Isaac Otte each threw complete games as Pierz topped Foley and Albany.

“With the pitch count rule now in tournaments, a pitcher can throw 115 pitches but then they need three full days of rest,” Karn explained. “So the pitchers who threw on Tuesday for Pierz, if they threw even 75 pitches, they wouldn’t be eligible to pitch today.”

“Probably the biggest advantage we have is the number of pitchers we have with live arms, as far as the number of pitches they can throw,” Karn said.

First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. on Thursday at Dick Putz Field. If Pierz wins that game, a second, winner-take-all game would immediately follow.