The Faribault Falcons knew they were going to get the two time defending Section 2AAA Mankato West Scarlets best shot Thursday in North Mankato.  The Scarlets forced a second game with a 7-2 win in game one.  Faribault jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and made it hold up with a 3-2 win in the second game and a berth into the State Tournament next week at the same complex where they played the Section 2AAA Tournament.

In the first game Mankato West senior pitcher Briggs Carlson smacked a one out homer on the first pitch she saw from Faribault junior McKayla Armbruster in the second inning  and sophomore shortstop Jalissa Stoltzman clubbed a solo shot on a 1-2 count to start the fourth inning to give the Scarlets a 2-0 lead.

The Falcons had a one out double by junior catcher Abby Van Ryn but back to back strikeouts ended that threat. In the fourth inning they collected two more hits by McKayla Armbruster and Van Ryn but had a runner picked off at second base.

In the bottom of the fifth inning Faribault had a great chance to tie or take the lead with the bases loaded and one out but didn't score.  After one out junior Ellie Knutson gets a bunt single, senior Camryn Salmonsen smacks a double and the stop sign was given to Knutson at third base.  Lauren O'Neil gets to first on a fielder's choice when the fielder tries to get Knutson getting back to the third base bag.  Senior Ali Schak just hammers the ball to the ankle of the third baseman who catches the ball and steps on third base for the inning ending double play.

Nine Mankato West batters went to the plate against Armbruster in the sixth inning before the Falcons decide to shut her down and get her rested and focused for the apparent upcoming game two.  After the first batter flew out to center the Scarlets lead-off batter in the order eighth grade center fielder Lanie Schoper hit a 0-2 single, Stoltzman was safe on an error, number three hitter junior Kenzie Grunst had a terrific 10 pitch at bat where she fought off a couple pitcher's pitches and got a walk on what looked to be a strike pitch from my location atop the concession stand.

Cleanup hitter senior second baseman Emily Veroeven laced a 0-1 pitch for a two RBI single.  Carlson popped out for the second out.  Freshman catcher Bri Stoltzman jumped on the first pitch she saw and cracked a 2 RBI double.  Junior designated player Emma Young had a excellent 9 pitch at bat before earning the second walk of the inning.  Sophomore right fielder Madi Mueller jumped on the first pitch for an RBI single and that's when the Faribault coaches decided to lift Armbruster and get her ready for game two.  When the inning was over 5 runs scored and 10 batters came to the plate.  It was the only inning of the game where Armbruster did not record a strike out.

Sophomore Lindsey O'Neil came in and faced the final 5 Mankato West batters, giving up just one hit and not allowing a run.

In the sixth inning Faribault had bases loaded again, this time with nobody out and didn't score.  Lindsey O'Neil started the inning with solid single, senior Bri Bresnahan added a single and senior Cassie Swanson was walked to load the bases.  Van Ryn then hit the ball right to the shortstop who flipped the ball to second base for a double play and the inning with a ground out.

Faribault scored their two runs in the bottom of the seventh when Knutson started the inning with a double, Salmonsen cracked a double and Knutson was held at third base.  Lauren O'Neil hit a ball that ended up being an error.  Knutson scored and Salmonsen scored the other run on a ground out by Schak.

Armbruster struck out 10 batters through the first four innings before the 5 run 6th by Mankato West.  She threw exactly 100 pitches in 6 2/3 innings and allowed 6 hits, walked two, 78 of the pitches were strikes.  21 of the 26 batters saw a first pitch strike.

Mankato West pulled starting pitcher Carlson out after back to back singles by O'Neil and Bresnahan to start the sixth inning.  She left with 61 pitches thrown, 40 for strikes, 11 of 19 first pitch strikes.

In the second game following a up and down in order first by Mankato West the Falcons got a great start to the game when  Ali Schak crushed a triple on a 1-0 count.  Armbruster hit the ball back to the pitcher Carlson and Schak was off at the crack of the bat sliding safely at home to give Faribault the early lead.

Bresnahan hit another at 'em ball to short.  Swanson then crushed the ball off the fence just missing a homer scoring Lindsey O'Neil who was running for Armbruster.  Sophomore Abby Lake had a great at bat going with a pitch and collecting an RBI single and the Falcons had 3 hits and 3 runs in the first inning.

Faribault had other opportunities to score.  With two outs they had runners at second and third and didn't cross the plate in the second inning.  In the fifth inning the bases were loaded and they didn't score.

Mankato West made things interesting with two outs in the top of the sixth inning Veroeven jumped on a first pitch for a double and Carlson hit a two run homer to make the score 3-2.

In the top of the seventh inning Mueller popped out to second on a 2-2 count after fighting off a couple pitches.  Sophomore left fielder Holly Wiste jumped on the first pitch and hit a liner to Lake for an out and Schoper hit a 1-0 pitch on the ground to short where Bresnahan collected the ball and threw to first and Faribault was in the history books.

This is the first ever trip to state in Fastpitch for Faribault.  The only other year they were in the section finals was in 1987 when they were defeated by the Austin Packers back when there were two classes

Armbruster threw her 95th pitch of the second game and 195th pitch of the day on the final pitch resulting in the ground out and securing the win for Faribault.

The State Tournament seeding takes place Saturday and Faribault should be the top seed in the tournament coming out of what has to be the toughest Class 3A section in the state.

Our Archambault Brothers disposal pick up of the first game was a nice running catch in right field by Abby Lake and the pick up of game two Lauren O'Neil made an awesome play robbing  Veroeven of a single to start the fourth inning.  It was a major league play by O'Neil because the ball was just crushed and she took a couple steps to her right to get it in her glove and threw her out at first base.

The Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game courtesy of Jason Krohn and Tony Langerud were Abby Van Ryn and Ellie Knutson in the first game with two hits each.  Both had a single and double and in the second game McKayla Armbruster found a second wind to hammer down the seventh inning.  In game two Armbruster had 4 strikeouts and no walks while giving up 6 hits. 64 of her 95 pitches were strikeouts and she was 18 of 29 first pitch strikes.

Mankato West won the Section 2AAA Tournament the past two seasons and went on to win state two years ago.  That means Faribault ended the Scarlets five straight Big Nine Conference titles this season and knocked them out of the top spot in the section after a couple years.

Two historical accomplishments in 2018 and the third could be just around the corner.  This team definitely has the talent to win the State Class 3A crown next week.

They just need to relax and play their game.

Faribault Falcon Section 2AAA Champions asked me to join them for team picture so I slid into home plate. Photo by Falcon Parent on my phone
Faribault Falcon Section 2AAA Champions asked me to join them for team picture so I slid into home plate. Photo by Falcon Parent on my phone

More From KRFO-AM