Faribault Softball Season Ends in Extra-Inning Heartbreaker
The Faribault Falcons fastpitch softball season ended Saturday with a 3-2 11-inning loss to the New Ulm Eagles in the elimination bracket of Section 2 Class 3A.
The Eagles had seven seniors on their team and the Falcons have everyone back next year after an amazing 21-3 season.
Two of those three losses came in the section tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato. The other, in the final game of the regular season, meaning after going 19-0 to start the season Faribault was 2-3 in their final five games.
Falcon pitchers McKayla Armbruster and Claire Drentlaw combined to strike out 17 New Ulm batters and scattered eight hits over the 11 innings. They were our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game.
Sophomore Armbruster fanned 13 batters and Drentlaw struck out four more. Armbruster threw the first 7-1/3 innings, allowing two runs in the third inning off three hits. Just two more hits were collected off Armbruster.
The difference maker in the game for New Ulm was Joey Batt. The sophomore centerfielder had a 2-RBI triple in the third inning and led off the top of the 11th inning with another triple and scored the winning run on a delay run to home plate during a ground out.
Both teams had eight hits.
Faribault tallied all singles and the Eagles had three extra base hits.
New Ulm starting pitcher senior Meleah Rhinehart finished the game with 11 strikeouts, seven of them in the final five innings. She also walked eight batters, but only one walked Falcon scored.
It was a gutty performance by the right hander while throwing 208 pitches.
No more gutty was Rhinehart then in the bottom of the seventh inning when it looked like Faribault was going to score a walk off win.
Junior Bre Bresnahan led off the inning with a single while hitting for Camryn Salmonsen. Salmonsen went to first base to run for herself.
No. 9 hitter sophomore Lauren O'Neil was walked to put runners at first and second and no outs. Alison Schak had a single to load the bases.
Salmonsen scored the tying run on an Armbruster grounder, and she was on first base, meaning bases were still loaded and there were no outs with the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters up to try and get the winning run to home plate.
All the Falcons needed was a fly to the outfield to score O'Neil from third, or squeeze play of one form or another; all three batters were struck out by Rhinehart. I believe all three may have been on a very effective changeup.
Faribault finished the game leaving 13 runners on base, 10 of them were in scoring position, while New Ulm left five runners, three in scoring position.
The Falcons had chances to tie or grab the lead multiple times before the seventh inning.
Schak was walked to start the bottom of the first, wild pitched to second and scored on a Armbruster single. Armbruster's courtesy runner was stranded at third base after being at second with one out and third with two outs. The inning ended with a pop out and a strikeout.
In the bottom of the third, Faribault had runners at first and second with nobody out after a couple of walks to start the inning and did not score. Those runners were stranded at second and third base. They advanced on a ground out to first following a strikeout.
The Falcon inability to get a bunt down proved costly on a few occasions.
The fourth inning opened with a single by Cassie Swanson, Ellie Knutson was walked and the next batter could not get a bunt to advance them to second and third and instead ended up pulling the ball to third base, allowing the third baseman to scoop it up and step on the bag for the first out.
That made runners at first and second with one out and Camryn Salmonsen absolutely crushed a ball, but the first baseman made a great lunging catch and stepped on the bag for the inning-ending double play.
In the fifth inning, the Falcons had runners at first and second with one out and they ended up at second and third and did not score.
In the 10th inning, Faribault again had a walk and a single to put runners at first and second with no outs and could not get a bunt down to advance the runners with the next batter striking out.
New Ulm is 20-4 and plays Mankato East on Tuesday at 5PM in North Mankato.
The winner has to beat No. 1 ranked and defending state champion Mankato West twice to win the tournament and go to state.
Mankato West beat their crosstown rivals 6-3 in a winner's bracket game.
Earlier in the day, New Ulm throttled Marshall 10-0 in five innings and sat and watched much of the Falcons' first game 10-3 win over Hutchinson..
Faribault had 12 hits in the game, but it took them a while to distance themselves from the Tigers. Hutchinson had 1-0 and 2-1 leads before the Falcons scored four runs in the third inning.
Faribault's Cassie Swanson pulled a ball for a grand slam in the third inning to make it 5-1 in a five-hit inning and they never looked back. It was Swanson's seventh homer of the season.
Hutchinson did score a run in the fourth inning to make it 5-3.
Armbruster entered the pitching circle to start the fifth inning and was lights out the rest of the way with seven strikeouts of the nine batters she faced.
First game starting pitcher junior Claire Drentlaw had to pitch most of her four innings in the rain and told me after the game it's no fun pitching with a wet ball. It's hard to get a good grip.
Drentlaw threw 95 pitches in those four innings and was constantly working behind the hitters. She struck out three batters, walked one and did not get a lot of defensive help.
Faribault had an error in each of the first three innings and they all helped the Tigers score their runs.
The Falcons blew the game open with a five-hit, five-run onslaught in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Armbruster started the inning with a single, Claire Drentlaw followed with her ninth double of the year. Abby Van Ryn got a bunt single and the bags were juiced again for Swanson, who was walked with the bases loaded for her fifth RBI of the game and 35th of the season.
Ellie Knutson had an RBI single and freshman Abby Lake clubbed a 2-RBI single, making it six straight batters reaching base. Lake ended the inning standing at third base following a line out to second, fly out to right field and ground out to shortstop.
Faribault junior cleanup hitter and shortstop Bre Bresnahan had one at-bat in the second game and singled. She was unable to go because of a knee injury suffered in practice.
I was told she took a ball from the pitching machine off her knee and she showed it to me. It was the size of a baseball and she was limping pretty good. The Falcons would never use that as an excuse, but believe me they missed her in the lineup.
She is a state champion swimmer so knows how to perform in pressure situations.
Our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the first game were Drentlaw and Armbruster for holding Hutchinson to five total hits and each had a double and a single while hitting and Swanson for her no doubter grand slam and bases loaded walk.
Assistant coach Jesse Armbruster said they learned a lot about their team in the last few games of the season and know there are some things that needed to be worked on for Faribault to take the next step and get to the state tournament.
Namely, relaxing more in pressure situations.