Mankato East Eighth-Grader Stymies Faribault Softball Hitters
Mankato East eighth-grader Madie Clarke held the powerful Faribault Falcons to two hits in a 1-0 Section 2 Class 3A winner's bracket game Thursday in North Mankato.
It was the first time any opposing pitcher has been able to put a zero on the board against Faribault. In the only previous game they lost this season, the Falcons scored five runs.
The win avenged two losses during the regular season to Faribault and has No. 3 seed Mankato East playing No. 1 seed Mankato West in the winner's bracket game Saturday.
The No. 2 seed Falcons got a terrific pitching performance from sophomore McKayla Armbruster. She scattered five hits, struck out nine and walked two batters while throwing 106 pitches, 70 for strikes. Armbruster was 16 of 29 in first-pitch strikes.
The only run allowed to score in the game came on a squeeze bunt single in the third inning. Mankato East No. 9 hitter Sabrina Lehme singled to open the inning, then Morgan Keim-Wolf walked and the Cougars were in business, set up to play the small ball they are so good at.
The next batter, Lily Andrego, laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third and No. 3 hitter Torey Richards put down a bunt up the first base line as Lehme came flying home to score.
Falcon first baseman Cassie Swanson looked to go home, but made the wise move to go to first, but Richards beat the throw for the bunt single RBI.
I say allowed to score because it appeared Faribault scored a run in the first inning on a Armbruster hit that had Alilison Schak crossing home plate, but the umpire made a late call that the ball was foul and sent Schak back to second base.
The roof of the Falcon third base dugout kind of obscured my view of the play but I did think it was a fair ball and Coach Silber, standing in the third base coaching box, said it was a fair ball in his opinion. He did not argue the call. I'm sure he thought his team would get many more chances, but that was not the case.
At one point, Clarke retired 12 consecutive batters from the second out of the first inning through the first out of the fifth.
Meanwhile Faribault had a hit in the first inning and a hit in the sixth inning and that was it from a team that coming into the day was hitting .367.
The Falcons clubbed three solo homers in an 11-1 five inning win over Waseca in the first game to give them 18 home runs on the season and head coach Chris Silber told KDHL after the loss to Mankato East that his team might have had a little home run fever in the second game.
Faribault had 13 hits against Waseca but it took them a while to get on track in that game, with just five hits going into the fourth inning.
Claire Drentlaw pitched the first game and tossed a three-hitter while striking out nine batters and walking none. She threw 77 pitches, 57 for strikes, and was 16 of 18 first-pitch strikes.
Silber told me his team did face Clarke earlier this season and hit pretty well against her, but she was able to live low in the zone and on the corners. The tall eighth-grader was not overpowering, with three strikeouts and two walks.
Clarke threw 89 pitches in the seven innings, 56 for strikes, and was 15 for 24 in first-pitch strikes.
The umpire was calling the outside corner strikes in particular and, like I said on the air and to Silber, at some point you have to take a step closer to the plate and wack that outside corner pitch the opposite way. Level swings is what the Falcons need to get back to.
Small ball won the game for Mankato East and the Falcons also need to be able to do some of that.
I've always said if you can't play that style you will not succeed in the state tournament, and this section is like a mini state tournament.
Faribault had 10 fly outs in the game, but did hit some rockets right to fielders.
With two outs in the first inning, Cassie Swanson tattooed the ball back up the middle and Clarke caught it. With one out in the fourth inning, Bre Bresnahan hammered a ball toward right field and the first baseman reached out her glove to snare it.
In the second inning with one out, Abby Van Ryn got just a little too much underneath the ball and ended up hitting a towering fly ball resulting in an out to left field.
Allison Schak led off the first game with a solo homer to dead center into the wind and Bre Bresnahan added a monster shot to right center. Cassie Swanson hit an opposite field solo shot to lead off the fifth inning.
Our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game in the 11-1 victory over Waseca were Schak, Bresnahan, Swanson, Drentlaw and Lauren O'Neil. O'Neil had two singles including a bunt one, scored and tallied an RBI in the game.
The Faribault State Farm Faribault players of the second game were Armbruster and Schak, the only Falcons to get hits in the contest.
The Falcon five-inning win over Waseca was the only 10-run rule shortened game in the first round.
Mankato West beat Worthington 10-2 and then blanked New Ulm 10-0 to set up the showdown with crosstown rival Mankato East.
No. 5 seed New Ulm avenged a loss earlier this season to No. 4 seed Hutchinson 6-5 in the first round.
Mankato East rolled over Marshall 12-3 but the game went seven innings.
Hutchinson scored a 10-0 six inning win over Worthington to end the Trojans' season.
Faribault will play Hutchinson at noon in an elimination bracket game and a win won't be easy. The Tigers defeated a very good New Prague team this season.
The other elimination game pits New Ulm against Marshall. Marshall downed Waseca in walk-off fashion 14-13.
The winners of those games play at 2PM in another elimination game the same time Mankato East and Mankato West play in the winner's bracket.
We do plan on carrying Faribault's games Saturday on KDHL Radio, 920 AM, www.kdhlradio.com and the RadioPup app.