The Faribault Falcons won two games Thursday in North Mankato to remain in the winner's bracket of the Section 2AAA Softball Tournament.  That was the goal heading into the action.  Some members of the team said after the game it wasn't "pretty."  I told them it doesn't have to be pretty.  Winning is the goal pretty or not.  The Falcons defeated Marshall in the first game 5-0 and edged Mankato East 4-3 in their other contest.

In the first game junior Faribault pitcher Mckayla Armbruster went the first four innings and struck out 11 of the 12 batters faced, leaving with a perfect game.  The Falcons were up by a 3-0 score when sophomore Lindsey O'Neil entered the game to give Armbruster some rest on a warm day.  O'Neil had not pitched to one batter in varsity action.  She didn't appear to be nervous pitching the last three innings and allowed just one hit while striking out one, walking one  and giving up one hit.

Faribault scored two runs in the first when senior Ali Schak started the game with a walk, McKayla Armbruster reached on a bunt single.  The runners advanced a base and senior Bre Bresnahan and senior Cassie Swanson were able to hit fly balls to right to score those runners and take a 2-0 lead.

The Falcons added a run in the second after two outs when Camryn Salmonsen singled, stole second and scored on a error off a batted ball by Schak.

Faribault had two more runs score in the sixth inning.  Van Ryn led the inning with a walk, sophomore Abby Lake was walked and then following back to back strikeouts junior Lauren O'Neil delivered an RBI single.  Schak was walked and the inning ended on a fly out.

#2 seed New Ulm came from behind to defeat Hutchinson 4-2, #5 seed Mankato East beat #4 Waconia 3-2 and #3 seed Mankato West downed Worthington 3-0.

In the second game a rare error by Faribault put a runner at second with nobody out but Armbruster got a ground out, pop out and strikeout to end the inning.  The Falcons scored three in the bottom of the first and needed every run in the end.  Schak led the game off by smacking a no doubter home run to left field on a 1-2 count and I could hear the Falcon dugout come to life.

Armbruster had a single, Bresnahan singled and Swanson hit a ball that the third baseman didn't field.  Van Ryn then singled and the Falcons were up 3-0 after one inning.

Mankato East answered in the second inning by unleashing their small ball game.  Number five hitter freshman Taylor Swalve led the inning with a solid single on a 2-1 count.  Junior Hannah Bauman sacrificed with two strikes to get Swalve into scoring position.  Junior Bri Adams laid down a bunt that Faribault overcharged and it brought in a run.  Sophomore Ana Christofferson also laid down a bunt for a single and the bases were loaded with just one out.  Armbruster got the next two batters to pop out and strikeout .

After a strikeout to start the top of the fourth inning Mankato East Adams had a terrific at bat against Armbruster.  Adams fought off a couple pitcher's pitches and on a 2-2 count lunged at a changeup that fell in for a single.  Christofferson sacrificed for the second out.  Number nine hitter sophomore Sabrina Lehne got the count full before hitting a single and Adams scored on a RBI double by senior Lily Andrego.  Lehne was thrown out at the plate trying to score the tying run.  It was a perfect relay from shortstop Bresnahan after a on target throw to her from left fielder Camryn Salmonsen.

Faribault added a run in the fifth inning when number nine batter Lauren O'Neil hit a single to right field to start the inning.  After a Schak sacrifice to get O'Neil to second Armbruster hit a grounder to second that resulted in an error and O'Neil scored what would be the winning run.  Bresnahan singled putting runners at second and third with one out but the next two Falcon batters were retired to end what could have been a bigger inning.

In the top of the seventh Lehne jumped on a 0-1 pitch and hit a double to the fence in center.  Andrego hit a 2-2 pitch scoring Lehne.  Junior Haley Stockman put down a bunt to move Andrego into scoring position.  Armbruster then struck out the number three and four hitters looking stranding the tying run at second base and Faribault won 4-3.

Armbruster had 9 strikeouts in the second game, so 20 more in 11 innings of action.

In the first game she only threw three pitches that were called balls.  In the second game Mankato East worked the count a number of times but Armbruster gave no free passes.  Throwing 106 pitches, 78 for strikes.

The Falcon coaches and players would probably tell you they did not play their best ball but remain unbeaten in the Section 2AAA Tournament.  They had 7 hits in the first game and 7 hits in the second game, had errors in each game and Armbruster didn't appear to have a feel in the second game for her usual devastating change up.

The team that ousted them from the tournament last year, New Ulm won an extra inning thriller in come from behind fashion against Mankato West 3-2.

So the #1 seed Faribault and #2 seed New Ulm will play in the winner's bracket at 2:00 p.m. Saturday and the winner doesn't have to play again until Thursday and would have to be defeated twice to gain a State Tournament berth.

The Class 3A number one rated Falcons are 18-1.  The others receiving votes in 3A New Ulm Eagles came from behind in both their games and are 17-3.

On of those three losses was 10-0 to Faribault in the Section 2AAA Tournament preview showcase event a couple weekends ago.  The Eagles are another excellent small ball team that knows how to manufacture runs.  Junior Joey Batt is very fast and keeping her off the bases can go a long way toward a win.  Batt is also a terrific point guard in basketball and will be playing at Mankato State in that sport.

At Noon Saturday Waconia and Mankato West hook up to see which team ends their season.  In the loser's bracket Hutchinson bested Worthingon 6-4 and Waconia downed Marshall 11-0 in five innings.  Also at Noon Saturday Mankato East will play Hutchinson and the loser of the Faribault vs New Ulm game will go back to Mankato on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. to play whatever team comes out of the loser's bracket.

Two more wins Falcons and your state bound.

Caswell Park North Mankato Diamond 1-photo by Gordy Kosfeld