In front of a large, partisan St. Cloud crowd, the Crusaders' Phil Imholte singled in the winning run for a dramatic victory over Glencoe-Silver Lake.
ST. CLOUD - The situation was set up too perfectly, almost as if the outcome had been preordained.
With the score tied in the bottom of the seventh inning, St. Cloud Cathedral, playing in front of a largely home crowd estimated to be around 1,200, had a runner at second base, its best hitter at the plate and momentum squarely on its side.
So when Phil Imholte lined a single to center field to score Brace Hemmelgarn with the game-winning run, giving the Crusaders a 7-6 victory over Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Class 2A championship game at Dick Putz Field in St.Cloud on Friday night, it was as if it was expected.
"With Phil up there, I felt really good about our chances right there," St. Cloud Cathedral coach Bob Karn said. "He's been hitting around .500 all season and he seldom strikes out."
Imholte's single ended a wonderful back-and-forth contest befitting a championship game.
Glencoe-Silver Lake, with ace Cody Hallahan on the mound, took a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and second innings off Cathedral starter Billy Sommers.
St. Cloud Cathedral (24-6) battled back to take a 4-2 lead, scoring three times in the bottom of the third inning. Imholte had the big hit, a run-scoring double, and also scored a run in the inning.
Glencoe-Silver Lake (24-4) responded nearly immediately, retaking the lead 6-4 by scoring three times in the top of the fifth inning, But the Panthers squandered a chance to tack on an important run on a botched squeeze play.
Cathedral tied the score 6-6 on four singles in the bottom of the sixth inning, with Tom Spaniol's liner to right driving in the tying run.
Hallahan, who had pitched five innings in the quarterfinals, got the first two outs of the seventh inning, but issued back-to-back walks to Hemmelgarn and Nate Schmidt, setting up Imholte's seventh-inning heroics.
"I was ready for that situation," Imholte said. "You only get so many chances like that in life and I wasn't going to let this one pass by."
The championship was the sixth for Cathedral, all of them under Karn, who has coached the team for 37 years.
"I'm fortunate to coach a team like this," Karn said. "I never have to say anything to get them ready. They get out of bed ready. They love to play ball."