NORTH MANKATO -- All season, the KMS Saints softball team had been the masters of the sport's big three elements: lights-out pitching, power hitting and air-tight defense.
On Thursday afternoon, the Saints had trouble with two of the three and it cost them a shot at the Class A state championship.
The Saints' power-packed offense managed just two hits and struck out 12 times against Cherry ace Shaina Novak and two crucial errors in the fifth allowed the Tigers to score the difference-making runs in a 3-2 Cherry victory at Caswell Park.
"There's no room for error when you get to this point (in the playoffs)," said Saints coach Eileen Suter. "All the teams here are too good."
The Saints, who entered with a 24-0 mark, rebounded to defeat Sebeka 15-7 behind Courtney Olson's six runs batted in the consolation round on Thursday night. KMS plays Red Lake Falls in the fifth-place game at 9 a.m. today.
On Thursday evening, Cherry, now 24-0, won a rematch of last year's state Class A final, 2-0, over defending champ New Life Academy in the semifinals. New Life Academy defeated Cherry for the title last year.
Cherry will play Blooming Prairie for the Class A championship at 1 p.m. today. KMS defeated the Awesome Blossoms in the third-place game last season.
In the quarterfinals game, the Saints and Tigers both entered with offensive hitting better than .400 and KMS obliterated its team home run record this season.
But the Saints didn't pick up their first hit against Novak until the bottom of the ninth when they were trailing 3-0.
"She throws rises and drops and she has pretty good speed," Suter said of Novak. "We had trouble, especially on inside pitches. We just didn't turn on them."
Cherry scored on a squeeze play in the first inning, then added two more runs in the fifth on two uncharacteristic errors by the Saints defense.
"I wish we hadn't started out that way," Suter said. "You always want to score first in games like this, and the two errors in one inning, that's very uncharacteristic (of this team)."
KMS's Haylie Helms drove in two runs in the bottom of the seventh and reached second on the play to pull the Saints within a run, but the rally ended on a Novak strike out to end the game.
Suter said she wouldn't be surprised if Cherry claims the title the missed out on last season.
"They're a very good team," she said. "They all hit the ball well and they're big -- they're built like lumberjacks. And they throw hard, too."
KMS knew their job would be tough this year, having to play the state's only other undefeated team in the quarterfinals, with perennial contender New Life Academy also in the same half of the bracket.
"It's an honor to be here," Suter said. "Not a lot of teams get this opportunity."
Class A quarterfinals
Cherry 3, KMS 2
Cherry 100 020 0 -- 3 3 1
KMS 000 000 2 -- 2 2 2
HITTING - Cherry: Angel Dahl 1-for-3 r, DeAnn Bjerklie 1-for-3 rbi, Breann Gruenhagen 1-for-2 ... KMS: Courtney Olson 1-for-2 r, Haylie Helms 1-for-3 rbi-2, Brielle Hauge 0-for-2 r
PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Cherry: Shaina Novak (W) 7-2-2-0-3-12 ... KMS: Erin Haglund (L) 7-3-3-1-1-3
Class A consolation
KMS 15, Sebeka 7
Courtney Olson had a home run among her three hits and drove in six runs to tie the state tournament single-game record and lead the Saints to victory in the Class A consolation bracket Thursday night.
Brielle Hauge and Kalli Forsell both had four hits.
Haglund got the win working a complete game.
KMS 401 104 5 -- 15 18 1
Sebeka 000 130 3 -- 7 9 3
HITTING - KMS: Ellen Johnson 1-for-2 rbi r, Sam Dunn 2-for-4 rbi r-3, Erin Haglund 1-for-5 r-2, Courtney Olson 3-for-5 hr 2b rbi-6, Brielle Hauge 4-for-5 2b rbi r, Lori McCain 0-for-5 rbi-2, Haylie Helms 3-for-4 3b rbi-2 r, Kalli Forsell 4-for-5 2b rbi ... Sebeka: Logan Redetzke 1-for-3 rbi-2 r, Shelby Pulju 2-for-4 rbi-2xxxx
PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- KMS: Haglund (W) 7-9-7-7-3-9 ... Sebeka: Brett Brockpahler (L) 7-18-15-10-4-6