31 May 2013

Softball: Still in the hunt

Carly Esselman 2 RBI vs. Hastings (photo by J Lindquist)
Farmington remained in the hunt to defend its Section 1AAA championship after a split of post-season games Tuesday in Austin.

The top-seeded Tigers dropped a tough 3-2, eight-inning decision to Hastings in the winners' bracket finals and then eased by Winona 5-3 in the loser's bracket to set op a rematch with Hastings for the section crown.

The Tigers and Raiders will meet at 3:30 Friday in Northfield in the double elimination tournament. A Farmington win would set up a second game at 5:30 with a berth in next week's state tournament on the line.

Hastings 3 Farmington 2
Tiger coach Paul Harrington said his team needed to play better defense if it was to make a return trip to state and in the loss to the Raiders that didn't happen.

Five Tiger errors contributed to a pair of unearned runs, the last coming in the top of the eighth inning after the locals had battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the count in the home half of the seventh.

"We didn't get our first hit until the fifth inning," Harrington said, "and our defense let down and gave them too many opportunities. We need to minimize our errors if we expect to win the section. 

"Pitching and defense wins games.  We had the pitching, but the support behind Ashley (Betzold) was not sufficient."

Maddie Muelken singled and Molly Berdan walked to start the seventh inning rally. Jordyn Keprios sacrificed the runners over and Carly Esselman singled up the middle to send the game into extra innings.

The Tigers had other chances including the third inning when they hit into a double play with runners on first and second and another in the fifth when they left the bases loaded. They also managed
two-out hits by Amber Doyle and Toni Hunsinger in the eighth but could not push the tying run across.

Betzold went the distance in the circle and gave up just one earned run. Doyle led the offense with a pair of singles.

Molly Berdan 2-run double vs. Winona (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Farmington 5 Winona 3
The Tigers didn't get much time to dwell on their loss as they immediately squared off against Winona, a 9-4 winner over Rochester Century earlier in the day.

The contest was a rematch of last week's second round game between the two teams won by Farmington 6-2.

The bats got off to another slow start but finally managed to break the scoring ice in the top of the fifth when Betzold doubled and pinch runner Ashley Ibinger scored on Hunsinger's single.

Farmington broke the game open in the sixth, scoring four times. Molly Berdan drove in two runs with a double and Doyle and Mackenzie Bauer each added run-scoring hits in the inning.

Esselman, Betzold, Doyle and Keprios each rapped a pair of hits hits as the Tigers finished with an even dozen.

Betzold picked up the pitching win, scattering seven hits.

"It's always tough to play right after losing a game like we did to Hastings," Harrington said, "especially against a team who has just one game.

"We give our kids a lot of credit. They played hard and finally got to their pitcher in the fifth. Up to then it seemed like we were snake-bit, hitting line drives at someone to end innings...It was a huge victory for us, giving us a chance to play another day."