The Mankato West Scarlets jumped out to a 5-0 lead and answered a Faribault Falcon charge to win the Big Nine title in a 10-5 victory Thursday.

The game at Alexander Park had a lot of fans in attendance despite the blustery conditions.

Sophomore McKayla Armbruster started the game and the Scarlets saw a pitching change just 10 batters into the game.

Man did the defending state and conference champions come to the game with their hitting shoes on. Talk about focus. Mankato West was laser focused and seemed to send a message to the upstart Falcons that they are at the top of the hill until somebody knocks them off.

Faribault did defeat them last Friday in a section preview tournament, but Mankato West head coach Don Krusemark did not throw his top pitcher in that game and it proved to be very good strategy. It took a few innings for Faribault to time junior Briggs Carlson. She didn't allow a hit until the third inning and by the time Faribault scored they were down 6-0.

Faribault cut the Mankato West lead to 7-4 going into the top of the seventh inning, but credit the Scarlets for cranking out hits galore. They had hits in every inning, multiple hits in five innings and only had two innings where they didn't score.

Junior Claire Drrentlaw did stop the scoring for a period, not allowing a score through 14 batters, but eventually Mankato West would touch her for five runs also.

The Scarlets tallied 17 hits and the Falcons 10 in the game.

Faribault had their chances to get more runs on the board but had trouble with two-out hitting.

With one out in the fourth, Bre Bresnahan and Cassie Swanson collected back-to-back singles but were stranded on the bases after a hard-hit fly out to center and ground out to end the inning.

The Falcons finally broke through on the scoreboard when a Camryn Salmonsen grounder was misplayed and sophomore Lauren O'Neil stepped up to the plate with the Scarlets thinking bunt. The infield and outfield played in and the left-handed hitting O'Neil smashed a double to left field to score Salmonsen.

After another error, Armbruster collected an RBI single but the inning would end in a pop out and a ground out.

In the bottom of the sixth, Faribault had runners at second and third with one out and were not able to get them home to make it a 7-6 game, which would have made things interesting heading into the final inning.

With one out, sophomore Ellie Knutson clubbed a double and sophomore Abby Van Ryn singled. Salmonsen had an RBI single. O'Neil hit a grounder to short and the throw to third was not caught for another Scarlet error, loading the bases.

Van Ryn scored on a ground out by junior Allison Schak and Armbruster ended the inning with a ground out to the pitcher with Salmonsen at third and O'Neil standing at second base.

In the top of the seventh, Mankato West started clubbing balls against Drentlaw after the first out was recorded on a pop out. She was lifted and Armbruster re-inserted in the pitching circle after seven batters in the inning and Armbruster got the last out while facing two batters.

In the bottom of the seventh, Faribault rallied again despite being down 10-4 at that point.

Drentlaw opened the inning with a walk, Bresnahan clubbed a double. Swanson hit a grounder to the first baseman who stepped on the bag and Bresnahan was practically on third base with Drentlaw still there and the Scarlets got a double play when Drentlaw was tagged out in a run down. Knutson knocked in the final run for Faribault with a double.

Our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game were Drentlaw, Ellie Knutson and Lauren O'Neil.

The two teams will more than likely be seeded opposite each other in the double elimination Section 2 Class 3A Tournament, which starts next week. You could make the case for Faribault being the top seed because they split with Mankato West and have a better record, but that probably won't happen.

The Scarlets definitely sent a message Thursday in Faribault, but the Falcons also got to see Carlson and will know what to expect if they get to play against Mankato West again.

Section 2 Class 3A is loaded with great teams.

Armbruster at Plate- photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Armbruster at Plate- photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Mankato West Pitcher Briggs Carlson- photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Mankato West Pitcher Briggs Carlson- photo by Gordy Kosfeld

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