Faribault Softball One Win Away From State Tournament
The Faribault Falcon fastpitch softball team looks locked in to a level of play not many teams have been able to accomplish. The Falcons rolled over a very good New Ulm team 10-0 in five innings in the winner's bracket today of the Section 2AAA Tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato. In every game of the tournament the top seed and #1 Class 3A ranked Faribault green machine has given their junior pitcher McKayla Armbruster a lead to work with. She'll take it and imagine what it does to the other teams.
The Falcons scored 2 runs in the bottom of the first against Marshall, 3 runs in the bottom of the first against Mankato East and 6 runs in the bottom of the first against New Ulm. I have seen 12 and even 15 batters come to the plate in an inning before, but I don't remember seeing every batter in the order reach base safely in the first inning. That's exactly what Faribault accomplished. Talk about sending your opponent a message. Ali Schak led the game with a single, McKayla Armbruster added a single. Bre Bresnahan had an RBI single. With an open base following a long meeting in the pitching circle and a 2-0 count to Cassie Swanson it was decided to intentionally walk her to put a force at any base.
On an 0-1 count the Falcons top RBI person coming into the game, junior catcher Abby Van Ryn laid down an excellent bunt on a squeeze play. The throw came home but not in time to get Lindsey O'Neil in to run for Armbruster. Sophomore Abby Lake hits the ball to second base and there's an error scoring a run. Then junior third baseman Ellie Knutson smacks a ball to the right side of the infield and the first baseman boots it for another run. Senior left fielder Camryn Salmonsen cracked a RBI single and number nine hitter junior second baseman Lauren O'Neil had a bloop hit to center. On the play Knutson stayed near the second base bag because the center fielder was charging in and looked like she may make the catch. She didn't and Knutson was thrown out at third on a very close play for the first out of the inning.
All nine batters reached base safely with five hits and two Eagles errors. That's setting a tone for the game. It was 6-0 Faribault before New Ulm could settle into the contest. The Falcons never looked back.
After a up and down in order top of the second for New Ulm with Armbruster striking out 5 of the first 7 batters faced in the game the Falcon bats were back at the plate in the second and added 3 more runs.
Bresnahan was hit by the first pitch thrown in the bottom of the second, Swanson hit the ball to center field so hard Bresnahan could only go to second base. Van Ryn hit a ball that resulted in an error by the shortstop. Lake hit a grounder and the throw came home but not in time to get Bresnahan. Knutson connected and Swanson was thrown out on the force at home. Following a strikeout, O'Neil clubbed a 2 RBI single. Eight ladies stepped to the plate and Faribault had a 9-0 lead.
Armbruster gave up the only hit for New Ulm in the third inning when the number 9 batter in the order singled following a swinging strike out. The Eagles tried to have her steal second base and Van Ryn gunned her out. Lead hitter junior center fielder Joey Batt came to the plate next and tried a push bunt. It's not really a bunt where you catch the ball with the bat and not a swinging hit, but she's just trying to place the ball between the pitching circle and third base beyond the circle. My guess is with her speed she gets a lot of hits this way. Not this time. Bresnahan charged the ball, didn't really plant her feet and had enough on a jump throw to get Batt out on the very close play. That my friends was our Archambault Brothers Disposal of Faribault pick up of the game.
With two outs in the bottom of the third Swanson hammered the ball to center and it rolled to the fence. She was thrown out trying to get to second base.
Armbruster kept the door shut on New Ulm in the top of the fourth inning with an up and down in order top half and her 7th and 8th strikeouts.
In the bottom of the fourth the Falcons got their 10th run. With one out Lake was walked then another out was recorded followed by a single by Salmonsen when the shortstop tried to throw her out at first from her knees. Salmonsen had beaten the throw and the ball got away from the first baseman. Lake motored around third and scored.
The top of the 5th there was no drama again with the Eagles going up and down in order and Armbruster recorded her 9th strikeout of the game. She faced one batter over the minimum thanks to the only person to get a hit being thrown out trying to steal second base.
Armbruster finished the game throwing 67 pitches, 49 for strikes, had a walk (her 8th of the season), allowed one hit, 7 of her 9 strikeouts were swinging. She choked off that devastating changeup a couple times. The outfield had to be a bit lonely with no putouts and only one ball hit their way, but there were no long periods in the hot sun which I'm sure they appreciated.
The Falcons recorded their 14th shutout of the season in 20 games and the competition has been very good. The Big Nine has had 5 state ranked teams all season and the section Faribault plays in has 5 of the 8 teams ranked among the state's elite.
Offensively the Falcons had 9 hits and 6 different players scored. There were no errors on defense.
The Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game were all of them because everyone contributed. I started to list the outstanding accomplishments and realized everyone was locked in and ready to go.
The Falcons are 19-1, New Ulm dropped to 17-4 with two of those losses to Faribault.
Mankato West defeated Mankato East 11-1 in five innings to advance in the elimination bracket today and will play New Ulm at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. The winner of that game goes back to Caswell Park Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and plays Faribault.
If the Falcons win one of those games they are in the State Tournament June 7 back in North Mankato.
To put it another way Mankato West or New Ulm would have to beat Faribault twice to advance to the State Tournament.