Faribault junior pitcher McKayla Armbruster allowed just one hit and one base runner in a 2-0 win over North Branch in the Class 3A State Championship game at Caswell Park in North Mankato today.  Armbruster struck out 9 batters and threw 92 pitches, 71 for strikes with 18 of 22 first pitch strikes.  Faribault senior center fielder Ali Schak smacked a double to right center in the bottom of the first, stole second and a throw attempting to throw her out at first base was errant allowing her to score.  That proved to be the only run they would need.

The only hit by  the #2 ranked and #2 seed North Branch Vikings was a double by the cleanup hitter to start the fifth inning.  At the time Faribault was ahead 1-0 and Armbruster coaxed a ground out, pop out and struck out a batter looking for the third out with the runner at third base when the Viking at bats ended.

The #1 rated and #1 seed Falcons had other opportunities to score and save what I had left for fingernails.  Armbruster hit a grounder on a 0-2 count to start the fourth inning that resulted in an error. Junior Lauren Steinberg came in to run for Armbruster. After a strikeout looking senior Cassie Swanson cracked a single to center placing runners at the corners with one out.  Junior catcher Abby Van Ryn put down a bunt to try and score Steinberg on a squeeze play but the North Branch pitcher threw home and Steinberg had no place to slide at home plate because the catcher had it blocked like a stone wall and she was tagged out for the second out.  Another strike out looking ended the inning for Faribault.

Faribault had a lead single in the fifth inning by junior Ellie Knutson.  Senior Camryn Salmonsen bunted Knutson into scoring position but she was left at second base thanks to a fly out and strike out to end the fifth.

The Falcons got their insurance run in the sixth inning when Armbruster hit another ground ball resulting in an error.  Steinberg went in to run again as the courtesy runner for the pitcher.  Senior Bre Bresnahan walked.  Swanson hit the ball back to the pitcher who immediately threw to third to erase Stenberg from the base paths for the first out.  Van Ryn bunted advancing Swanson and Bresnahan and the pitcher looked to third but Bresnahan was already about to reach the base and the pitcher threw to first to get Van Ryn and the ball was thrown over the first baseman's head.  Bresnahan scored on the error.  A pop out and another strike out looking ended the sixth inning but the two runs is all Armbruster and her teammates would need.

The top of the seventh the numbers 2-3-4 hitters came up and Armbruster got a pop out to her, a liner hit right to Lake in right field and ended the game with her ninth strikeout of the game and her 37th strikeout of the state tournament in 21 innings of pitching.

Armbruster's pitching numbers in the state tournament were eye popping and I'm guessing she will be hearing from a lot of college scouts who were in attendance.  21 innings pitched, 279 pitches, 206 for strikes, 37 strikeouts (17, 11, 9) 1 walk, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 earned run.

Our Archambault Brothers Disposal pickups of the game were the back to back outs recorded by Bresnahan and Van Ryn following the lead double in the fifth inning.  Bresnahan retired the batter following the double with a nice scoop and throw.  The batter who hit the double went to third with one out.  On a 1-0 count Van Ryn caught a short pop up behind the plate and Armbruster struck out the next batter looking.  Three of her nine strikeouts were looking.

North Branch senior pitcher Samantha Pederson struck out 8 Faribault batters, 4 were looking.  I was told Pederson will be playing softball at the University of Minnesota in Duluth next year.  She changed speeds well and both runs in the game were not earned.

I had Faribault with 4 hits in the game and North Branch with 4 errors.  The official scorer gave them two errors in the sixth inning but did not rule the throw to third which got by the third baseman to allow Schak to score in the first inning was an error, or a dropped ball by the first baseman on a Armbruster grounder.  Evidently the official scorer thought Armbruster would have been safe anyway and that might have been the case but how the first run was determined to be a earned run I'll never know. Schak clearly does not score on the play if the ball doesn't get by the third baseman.

Our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game were the four seniors providing great leadership all season and contributing mightily in the state tournament.  Ali Schak, Bre Bresnahan, Cassie Swanson and Camryn Salmonsen.  McKayla Armbruster was the other State Farm Faribault agents Jason Krohn and Tony Langerud player of the game for tossing another great game.  A one hitter.

Bresnahan, Schak and Armbruster were named to the All-Tournament team.

The Falcons concluded their season with a 23-2 record and North Branch fell to 25-3 on the year.

It's the third straight Class 3A Champion from the Big Nine Conference.  Mankato West won in 2016, Winona last year and Faribault this year.  Believe it or not that is not a record but the Big Nine might have the record because from 1986 through 1991 the Big Nine also won the state in softball.  I don't remember when they expanded the softball classes but I do believe those years go back to two classes also.

In case you are curious here is the listing:

1986 Mankato East

1987 Austin

1988 Mankato East

1989 Mankato East

1990 Mankato West

1991 Mankato East

Austin captured back to back titles in 1980 and 1981.

That's 11 State Championships in girls softball for the Big Nine in 42 years.

For Faribault it is their 17th team state title.  The Emeralds Dance Team has 11 State Championships since 1997.  Other Faribault High School state titles go back a few years.

1915 Boys Track and Field

1924 Boys Track and Field

1949 Boys Golf

1951 Wrestling

1984 Girls Cross Country.

After the game I ran into Head Coach Chris Silber and he gave me one of the gold medals awarded to the Falcon players.  I didn't really earn the award but I'm going to cherish it because it was fun to call their Section and State Tournament run.

Thanks ladies for some great memories.

MSHSL Gold Medal Awarded to Faribault State Softball Champions-photo by Gordy Kosfeld