30 May 2012

Softball: Knocking on state tournament door

Amber Doyle (2-3, 2 RBI) knocked in the winning run with a sixth-inning double (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Farmington coach Paul Harrington said his team doesn't get behind early in games on purpose. It just seems that way.

Tuesday night the Tigers spotted defending state champion Hastings three runs in the first three innings before rallying for a hair-raising 4-3 win in the winner's bracket of the Section 1AAA tournament.

Farmington, which has trailed in each its three section games, needs one win on Thursday against Rochester John Marshall to earn its second-ever trip to the state tournament.

The two teams square off Thursday at 5:00 p.m. in Todd Park in Austin. A John Marshall victory would bring about a second game at 7:00.

"The first game is key," Harrington said. "We have the momentum right now and we have to keep it. We can't go into Thursday thinking that all we have to do is one out of two games. You lose the first one and everything changes."

After two-and-a-half innings of Tuesday's match-up with Hastings, the Tigers didn't seem to have much going. They had committed four infield errors, stranded five base runners and were staring up at a three-run deficit.

"I think we felt the pressure a little," Harrington said. "That's the first time some of these players had been in this situation and they knew we were facing the defending state champs."

The comeback started in the third when Ashley Betzold singled, Allie Rice laced a double to to right-center and Taylor Haakana stroked a run-scoring single to make it a one-run game.

The second-seeded Tigers tied the count in the fifth on a double by Erin Wurst and a clutch two-out hit by Amber Doyle.

The teams were still deadlocked in the home half of the sixth when Brooke Searles grounded a single to left and raced home on Doyle's double to the right-centerfield gap.

Betzold, who posted her 16th pitching win of the season, and the defense did the rest, stranding the potential tying run at first in the bottom of the seventh.

"I think Ashley pitched her best game of the season tonight," Harrington said.

Betzold scattered eight hits, struck out three and didn't allow an earned run against the hard-hitting defending champs.

Allie Rice 2b, 1b, RBI (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Rice and Doyle each had a single and a double to pace the Farmington eight-hit offense. Doyle had a pair of runs batted in and Rice and Haakana each drove in one.  

There were many other highlights in the win, one of them the steady play of the Tiger outfield. The trio of Rachel Brietich, Searles and Haakana finished the night with with a total of six putouts.

"Our outfield is playing very well as group right now," Harrington said.

Thursday's match-up with John Marshall will present the Tigers with another high-scoring opponent. The Rockets lost to Hastings 9-8 in the opening round of the Final Four before coming back to defeat Rochester Mayo 8-7 and Hastings 9-8 in extra innings to make the championship games (s).

"It's still pitching and defense that wins at this level," Harrington said. "We'll have to come ready to play."

Farmington has made the state tournament field once before, finishing runner-up to Eastview in 2003.