The Class 3A #1 rated Faribault Falcon softball team has been laser focused all year and is about to get down to business again this Memorial Day weekend.  It all starts this evening in North Mankato when the Falcons (16-1) open Section 2AAA play against the Marshall Tigers (6-11).  This is without a doubt the toughest Class 3A section in the state with 5 of the teams state ranked and 4 in the top 7. The key for the team that wins the tournament is to stay in the winner's bracket.  If a team does that they can advance to the State Tournament in four games.

The Falcons have defeated all four teams they've played that are in the section and won by a combined score of 18-1.  Shutouts of three of the four.  Faribault notched a 10-0 win over the team that ended their season last year New Ulm.  They defeated Mankato West just last week at Scarlets Field 2-0.  Bested the Worthington Trojans 4-0 and took 8 innings to get by Mankato East 2-1 in Faribault.  All those other wins were on the road.

Junior right handed pitcher McKayla Armbruster has been dominant in the pitching circle.  She leads the state in strikeouts with 193 in 104 and 1/3 innings (an average of approximately 12 a game).  Here are some more eye popping statistics for Armbruster. She has given up just 39 hits (2.4 per game) and has 11 shutouts in 16 games pitched with 15 wins.  The only loss suffered by the Falcons came in the West St. Paul dome against New Prague 2-1 in 8 innings.

Armbruster has a 0.60 ERA and opponents are hitting .139.  She doesn't give batters passes either, they have to earn their way on base.  Armbruster has just 8 walks, one intentional and has hit 3 batters.

The Falcons can beat teams in other ways too.  They are 23 of 27 in stolen bases while junior catcher Abby Van Ryn has thrown out 6 of the 8 batters who have attempted to steal (there haven't been many runners on the bases against Faribault).  Van Ryn also has just one passed ball this season.

Faribault is averaging 8.7 hits per game which is below last year's average but the competition has been much stiffer.  The Falcons have 36 doubles, 7 triples and 9 home runs.  That's 52 extra base hits of the 149 total.  They are hitting .330 as a team with a team slugging percentage of .481 and on base percentage of .374.

Faribault has 9 errors this spring. Again Armbruster has been very stingy allowing people to even get the ball in play.

Last season the Falcon coaches believed small ball, both by their opponents and not executed by them, possibly cost them a trip to state.  They've concentrated more on that very important phase of the game and have 19 sacrifices in their 17 games.  More impressive to me is the fact that 8 players have had a sacrifice.

Seven Falcons have double digit hits, four have 20 or more hits and double digit RBI so you can't key on any one or two batters.

Faribault opens at 5:00 p.m. today on POWER 96 95.9 FM against the Marshall Tigers.  Download the FREE app and listen anywhere on the planet.  Tell your relatives in other states to tap the app and join in the fun.  Win or lose they play again at 7:00 p.m. and that will also be on POWER 96.

If they win the #5 seed Mankato East Cougars (12-7) or #4 seed Waconia Wildcats (11-8) will be their next opponent.  Those two teams have split during the regular season.

On the other side of the bracket the #2 seed New Ulm Eagles (15-3) plays #7 Hutchinson Tigers (6-12) and #3 seed and defending Section Champion Mankato West (13-5) clashes with the #6 seed Worthington Trojans (11-6).

It's not going to be easy but I always say anything worthwhile in life shouldn't be easy.

Faribault's average performance this year has been very good.  Nobody has to put on a cape and be super girl.  If the Falcons just play the way they are capable of playing they can win two today and let everybody battle to play them next Thursday and have to beat them twice to get to state.

Faribault Junior McKayla Armbruster throwing last pitch in last year's perfect game against Northfield. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld