The Faribault Falcons and Mankato West Scarlets will square off Saturday in a winner's bracket showdown in Section 2AAA softball.  The defending State Champion Falcons senior pitcher McKayla Armbruster crushed a walk-off homer for a 1-0 win over New  Ulm to keep Faribault in the winner's bracket. The opening game Faribault defeated Hutchinson 4-0.  The tournament is being played at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

Eagles senior pitcher Ashlyn Donner allowed just two hits and Armbruster one hit in the game.  Donner was throwing with a cracked rib and aggravated the injury while diving for a pop up off a bunt attempt by Faribault senior Lauren Steinberg in the bottom of the fifth inning.  It took awhile for her to catch her breath.  She appeared to be okay retiring the next five batters before Armbruster's game clincher in the bottom of the seventh.

Armbruster struck out the first 8 New Ulm batters she faced before walking the number 9 hitter in the order in the top of the third inning.  Senior second baseman Joey Batt had the only hit off Armbruster following the walk.  The Eagles would have no more base runners as the future Minnesota State Mankato right handed pitcher set down the next 12 batters in the game.

Armbruster tallied 15 strikeouts of 23 batters faced.  There were some nice defensive plays by Faribault along the way too.  Senior right fielder Lauren Steinberg made a terrific running catch in the fourth and sixth innings.  Center fielder Lexi Velander caught a line drive in the fifth inning.  Senior third baseman Ellie Knutson snared a hammered ball in the seventh.

Our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game were Armbruster, Van Ryn for their hits.  Steinberg for her two impressive catches.

Armbruster finished the game with 93 pitches thrown, 69 for strikes.  In the previous game she threw 65 pitches through 5 innings, 44 for strikes.  Allowed one hit.  Struck out 9 batters with no walks.  Lindsay O' Neil threw the last two innings of scoreless ball with two hits allowed, one strikeout, 22 pitches, 15 for strikes.

In the first game the Falcons manufactured a run in the first inning without the benefit of a hit.  Abby Lake opened the game with a walk.  Ellie Knutson had a sacrifice bunt to get Lake into scoring position.  Armbruster hit a fly ball to right field advancing Lake to third base.  Abby Van Ryn was walked and and just kept going around first base.  She was nearly to second when Hutchinson didn't know how to handle the situation.  Lake was sent home and scored.  Van Ryn got back to first base and was called out initially but after the umpires talked she was safe.

Faribault added three runs in the third inning.  Knutson was walked.  Armbruster hit a single. Van Ryn was walked to load the bases.  Velander hit a grounder to the pitcher and she elected to throw to first allowing Knutson to score.  Steinberg crushed the ball off the left field fence to score two runs and Faribault had a 4-0 lead.

The Falcons had a couple other opportunities to score that game but couldn't get the timely it.  They finished the game leaving 8 people on base, 5 in scoring position.

Our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault Players of the Game against Hutchinson were Armbruster, Van Ryn, Steinberg and Lindsay O'Neil.

Armbruster and O'Neil combined for the shutout in the pitching circle allowing 3 hits.  O'Neil threw 22 pitches, 15 for strikes.

The Falcons had a golden opportunity to add to their 4-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.  Van Ryn led the inning off with a single up the middle.  Lexi Velander grounded to the pitcher who threw to second to get Van Ryn.  The senior catcher would have been safe but her momentum took her ever so slightly behind the bag.  Steinberg hit a single to place runners at first and second with one out.  Lindsay O'Neil walked to load the bases with one out.  A pop out on the infield and strikeout ended the threat.

Armbruster now has recorded 316 strikeouts in 151 innings and allowed 52 hits, 11 runs, 6 earned with 10 walks.

Top seed Mankato West breezed to a 11-1 five inning win over Marshall in their first game and pulled away from Mankato East in the next game 12-4.

The top two seeds in the tournament are the top two ranked teams in the state in Class 3A.  Saturday the winner's bracket game is scheduled for a 4:00 p.m. start.  The winner sits and waits to see who comes through the loser's bracket and has to be defeated twice next week or they are state tournament bound.

When Faribault and Mankato West played May 2 in Faribault the Scarlets won 3-1 in 14 innings.  The Falcons had the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of 13th and didn't score or there wouldn't have been a 14th inning.

The showdown between the top two ranked teams in Minnesota Class 3A fastpitch will be on KDHL Radio, 920 AM and the free KDHL app.  Coverage will begin 3:45 p.m.