Faribault Softball Finishes Unbeaten Big Nine Season
The Faribault Falcon softball team ended their regular season today with a 2-0 win at Mankato West and wrapped up their first-ever Big Nine Conference title. Coming into the game the five-time defending Big Nine Champion Scarlets needed a win to tie Faribault for the championship. With the win, the Falcons go 11-0 in the Big Nine and will be hanging a banner in Nomeland Gym. Some of the ladies told us during a Faribault Interiors show to begin the season they set hanging a banner as a goal before the season got underway.
Down below you can listen to the broadcast if you missed the game or just want to relive it.
Closed circuit to the ladies. There's room for a state championship banner too. The game was not as close as the 2-0 score would indicate. Junior pitcher McKayla Armbruster was locked in again, allowing one bloop single in the 6th inning. The only other Mankato West baserunner walked in the 7th. Thanks to the Scarlets attempting to steal second with two outs in the sixth, Armbruster faced just one batter over the minimum.
Armbruster struck out five batters and had a perfect game going until the bloop single by #8 hitter sophomore right fielder Madi Mueller. Faribault flashed some leather in the game also with left fielder Camryn Salmonsen recording four outs. Junior third baseman Ellie Knutson had four assists. Junior second baseman Lauren O'Neil fielded a good bunt and tagged the runner coming down the first base line and senior shortstop Bre Bresnahan caught three popups included squeezing the ball in the glove to record the final out of the historic game for the Falcons.
Faribault had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the first inning. The top three hitters all started the game with hits. Senior Ali Schak started by working the count full against Mankato West senior right-handed pitcher Briggs Carlson and fouled off a couple pitches before hammering the ball to left field. The left fielder dove and the ball went to the fence. Schak ended up at third base because the throw missed the cut off person coming back into the infield and Faribault was in business thanks to the double and error. Armbruster had a 0-2 count when she had a nice level swing and collected an RBI single. Bresnahan followed with another single and Armbruster's courtesy runner Lauren Steinberg and Bresnahan advanced to second and third base on a wild pitch.
Senior first baseman Cassie Swanson stepped to the plate with nobody out, a run in and two "ducks on the pond" as the saying goes. Swanson hit a 3-1 pitch on the ground to shortstop, Steinberg took off for home and was easily out at the plate for the first out. Junior catcher Abby Van Ryn pulls off a big surprise by laying down what appeared to be a perfect bunt on a 3-0 count that would have easily scored Bresnahan but the home plate umpire called Van Ryn out saying she interfered with the fielder on the play.
Believe me, Van Ryn avoided interfering with the player running away from the ball and the fielder but that was the call and the second out with Bresnahan going back to third base. The Falcon side of the inning ended on a ground out and after three hits and a Scarlet error, Faribault had just one run. Carlson threw 28 pitches in the inning with 16 strikes and was 3 of 6 in first pitch strikes.
Armbruster struck out two of the three batters in the first inning on 13 pitches to get the hot bats back to the plate for Faribault.
In the top of the second for Faribault junior third baseman Ellie Knutson stroked a single and did her impression of former major league great base thief Rickey Henderson by stealing second and third base. Following a strikeout number 9 Falcon hitter O'Neil hit a 2-0 pitch in the air to right field for a sacrifice fly RBI for Faribault's second run.
After two innings Carlson had thrown 45 pitches, 25 for strikes with 5 of 10 first pitch strikes. The senior right handed pitcher finished the night throwing 121 pitches, 71 for strikes, struck out 4 and walked 2
Armbruster had a 16 pitch second inning and 13 pitch third inning while collecting two more strikeouts. She would finish the game with 93 total pitches, 67 for strikes, one hit and one walk and 5 strikeouts..
The Falcons squandered a few other opportunities to score which kept the game close and my fingernails short. Abby Van Ryn led the fourth inning off with a double. Steinberg went in to run for her. Sophomore right fielder Abby Lake had a productive out with a fly ball to right field advancing Steinberg to third base with one out. Faribault tried to get a bunt executed but the next two batters struck out and popped out to end the inning.
Bresnahan led the sixth inning off with a classic at bat for Faribault, fouling off pitch after pitch and working the count full before lacing a single to center. Swanson made a terrific adjustment at the plate shortening her swing to hit a line drive that rolled to the fence in left center. Bresnahan was sent home on the play and thrown out at the plate. A fly out and ground out ended the inning with Swanson standing on third base.
In the top of the 7th Faribault had back to back walks to start the inning. Carlson may have been tiring going over the 100 pitch count about that time. O'Neil hit a single to right and Knutson was thrown out on a very close play at the plate. Alison Schak hit a grounder and Salmonsen was thrown out at the plate and the inning ended on a ground out.
Faribault becomes the first team in 12 years outside of Mankato to win the Big Nine Conference. Rochester Mayo did it in 2005. (The Big Nine conference statistics did not include last year's Mankato West title on the list of past champions so in previous articles I listed the 11 years because that's what I counted)
The Falcons finish the regular season with 12 shutouts in 17 games. 11 of the shutouts recorded by Armbruster. Their only loss was 2-1 to Class 4A New Prague in an extra inning dome game.
Faribault heads to the Section 1 Class 3A Tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato next Thursday and will undoubtedly be the number one seed.
They will play the #8 seed at 5:00 p.m. and another game at approximately 7:00 p.m. Thursday. The goal is to stay in the winner's bracket and play again Saturday in North Mankato. Memorial Day is a rain day for the tournament and action is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.
You can listen to the game below.