The Faribault Falcon softball team defeated Bemidji 8-0 and defending State Champion Winona 7-1 Thursday at the State Tournament in North Mankato.  The top seed Falcons will play the #2 seed North Branch Vikings at 1:30 p.m. Friday and KDHL Radio will be there to bring the game to those who can't be there.  Faribault junior pitcher McKayla Armbruster looked locked in all day with 17 strikeouts and a no-hitter in the first game and 11 strikeouts and a 4 hitter in the semi-final against fellow Big Nine member Winona.

Armbruster leads the state in strikeouts and now has 268 in 148 2/3 innings.  The right handed pitcher had one walk all day and now has walked 11 batters all season.  Armbruster improved her record to 21-2 and the Falcons are 22-2 heading into the title game.

Armbruster was just one batter away from a perfect game against Bemidji with the Lumberjacks only baserunner a walk issued in the first inning.  Meanwhile it took the Falcons a little while to get multiple hits in an inning off Bemidji junior pitcher Gabbi Takkunen.

Faribault senior Ali Schak hit a line drive home run with one out in the third inning to start the scoring.  Classmate Cassie Swanson crushed a double to lead off the fourth inning.  After a couple pop outs junior Ellie Knutson executed a bunt for a hit and Swanson went to third base.  Knutson was thrown out trying to steal second and that ended that threat.

With two outs in the fifth inning Ali Schak , McKayla Armbruster and Bre Bresnahan each collected singles.  Bresnahan's hit resulted in Schak crossing the plate to make it 2-0 Falcons.

The sixth inning was one of the more bizarre innings you will ever see.  The inning started with a fly out then sophomore Abby Lake singled, Knutson and senior Camryn Salmonsen were walked to load the bases.  Junior Lauren O'Neill collected an RBI and that ended the day for the starting pitcher.  Sophomore Maddie Hanson entered the game to pitch and during the Schak at bat it appeared she hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Knutson but the umpire called an illegal pitch.

Knutson's run was allowed to score and runners were told to move up a base.  That placed runners at second and third.  Schak was allowed to continue hitting. It appeared she popped out on the infield but no another illegal pitch was called scoring Salmonsen.  Schak then launched a home run to make it 7-0.  Armbruster hit a grounder resulting in a Lumberjack error.  Sophomore Kelsie Demars went in to run for Armbruster and was went to second on a wild pitch.  After a pop out for the second out Swanson singled placing runners at the corners.  Junior catcher Abby Van Ryn hit a RBI single and the inning ended with six runs scored.

The Falcons had 11 hits in my scorebook and committed no errors.  Of course they didn't have many chances with just one batter over the minimum faced by Armbruster.  Our Archambault Brothers Disposal pickup of the game was a nice running catch in left field by Salmonsen to start the second inning.  There were just three other outs recorded by fielding plays.  Bresnahan caught a pop up and a liner back to back in the fourth inning and Lake caught a lazy fly ball to right.

The Lumberjacks record dropped to 16-9 and they went to the consolation bracket.

When Faribault played Winona on May 5 in Faribault the Falcons collected a hard fought 3-2 win on their way to an unbeaten Big Nine season.   Winona pitcher junior Annika Anderson was also coming off a no hit performance in a 2-1 first game win over Rocori of Cold Spring.  The Winhawks were the #4 seed in the tournament.

They flipped for home team and Winona won the toss so they were the home team in the semi-final contest.  I was perplexed.  I guess you only seed for the first round.  Does that make any sense?

It proved not to matter with Armbruster locked in and the Falcon bats looking good from the beginning.  Armbruster had a perfect game going through 10 batters with 6 strikeouts.

Schak led the game off working the count full and clubbing a hit which I really felt set the tone.  Remember Anderson was coming off a no hit performance also and did give one up to the first batter was probably a little unsettling.  Armbruster smacked a grounder to short and Schak was erased at second base.  Bre Bresnahan hit the ball about as hard as a ball can be hit but right to the first baseman who stepped on the bag for an inning ending double play.  The at bats thought showed Anderson was not going to be dominant and gave Faribault confidence they could get the job done.

The Falcons put three runs on the board in the third inning.  With one out O'Neill hit a single to right field, there was a second strikeout.  Armbruster smacked a RBI double and Lindsey O'Neill went in to run for the pitcher.  Bresnahan delivered a RBI single and scored when the center and right fielders ran into each other on a towering fly ball off the bat of Swanson ruled an error on the center fielder because the collision occurred in right field.

In the bottom of the fourth inning Winona scored their only run of the game.  With one out junior Samantha Iverson got the first hit of Armbruster in the game and on the day in her 11th inning of pitching at the state tournament.  Following a pop out number four hitter in the lineup junior catcher Lauryn Hamernik belted a double off the right field fence.  Armbruster recorded her seventh strikout to put out the fire.

Schak led the fifth inning off with a single, Armbruster singled and Schak went to third on a throwing error by the Winhawks trying to get her out at second base.  Bresnahan hit a deep fly scoring Schak.  There was a pop out and with two outs Van Ryn hit the first pitch in the at bat over the center field snow fence for a two run homer and Faribault was up 6-1.

The Falcons last run came in the top of the seventh inning.  Armbruster hit a ball resulting in an error.  O'Neill again went in to run for her and Bresnahan hit a bloop single to center but O'Neill was thrown out at second because she had to wait to see if the ball was going to be caught in the outfield.  Bresnahan stole second base and on a walk to Van Ryn stole third.  Van Ryn got caught in a rundown between first and second and was able to stall long enough for Bresnahan to score the team's seventh run before she was tagged out to end the top of the seventh.

Armbruster collected an up and down in order seventh with the game ending on her 11th strikeout of the game and the Falcons were in the title game.

Our Archambault Brothers Disposal pickup of the second game was a tie.  Ellie Knutson made a nice scoop play at third base in the sixth inning for the second out and Lauren O'Neill fielded a bunt down the first base line to start the seventh, spun and threw the speedy runner out.

Our Faribault State Farm Insurance Agents Faribault players of the first game were Schak with her two homer game, Armbruster and the 17 strikeout no hit effort.  Armbruster was also a player of the second game with a couple hits and the four hitter with 11 strikeouts.  Bresnahan had two hits and two RBI and Van Ryn the two run homer and perfect execution of the rundown to allow the runner to score from third.

North Branch defeated Hill-Murray 3-1 to improve their record to 25-2.  Faribault is now 22-2.  The #2 seed and #2 Vikings had 9 hits in their win.  Senior pitcher Samantha Pederson allowed 5 hits while striking out 11 Pioneers and not walking anybody.

North Branch did have two errors in the game.

The title game has all the indication of a pitcher's duel with both ladies throwing some serious gas and both have exceptional changeup pitches.

McKayla Armbruster and Abby Van Ryn warm up before State Tournament game- photo by Gordy Kosfeld