07 June 2012

Softball: Tigers no-hit in state opener

Pre-game introductions at 2012 Class AAA State Tournament (photo by Jim Lindquist)  
Stillwater junior righthander Hannah Heacox faced only 23 batters and did not allow a hit and the Tiger defense committed four costly errors as the Ponies rolled to an 11-0 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state tournament played Thursday in Mankato.

Heacox's no-hitter was the 33rd in the history of the Minnesota state fastpitch tournament.

With the loss, Farmington moved to losers' bracket play beginning Friday morning against Bloomington Jefferson, a 1-0 loser to Mankato West in its opening round game.

Tiger coach Paul Harrington was disappointed in his players' performance in the lopsided loss to the Ponies but reminded them after the game that it was not the end of the tournament.

"It was a bad day and a bad game," he said, "and now we have to leave it behind us and move on."

The contest was delayed by rain for almost three hours, starting closer to noon than the scheduled 9:00 a.m first pitch.

The Ponies touched Farmington ace Ashley Betzold for a run in the first inning on a lead-off double by Carlie Hart and single by Halie Balzart but Tiger catcher Allie Rice gunned down Balzart attempting to steal to keep the damage to a minimum. Rice would go on to throw out two other Stillwater runners on the base paths.
Taylor Yousse tags out a Stillwater runner at second (photo by Jim Lindquist)
The Ponies threatened again in the third but with one out and two runners on, the Tigers turned a double play to end the inning with the final out coming with Rice taking a throw from first-baseman Amber Doyle and tagging out a runner at the plate.

A misplayed line drive in the outfield led to three Stillwater runs in the fourth inning before the winners erupted for a pair of scores in the sixth and a deflating five runs in the top of the seventh.

Farmington, meanwhile, managed just two base runners the entire game. Taylor Haakana reached in the second when she was hit by a pitch and Betzold worked Heacox for a free pass in the fourth.

Rice's fly ball out to left in the fourth was the only ball the Tigers hit out of the infield.

Farmington hitters struck out an uncharacteristic 11 times against Heacox who earlier this week was named to the All-Metro second team by the Minneapolis StarTribune.

Erin Wurst is out by a step at first base (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Betzold went the distance in the circle for the Tigers, allowing 13 hits while striking out three and walking one. Only two of Stillwater's 11 runs were earned.

"Give Stillwater a lot of the credit," Harrington said. "They are the best-hitting team we've faced this season and she (Heacox) is the best pitcher we've seen. They really pounded the ball."

The first-year Tiger coach added that the loss, as tough as it was to absorb after his team had fashioned an impressive 17-4 record, was also a valuable learning experience for his relatively young squad.

"It let's us know the level where we are trying to get," he said. "When you get to the state tournament, every team is good. Every pitcher is tough.

Harrington was quick to point out, however, that Farmington's ending to its story book season had not been written.

"Tomorrow is another day," he said. "We'll face another good team and another good pitcher with Jefferson. Like I said, we need to put today's game behind us and move on."