Tiger softball heads to state
For the past 10 years, teams south of the river have dominated the landscape in Class AAA softball.
Hastings, Burnsville, Eagan, Rosemount and Eastview have won state titles during that stretch, but none of those teams made the trip to North Mankato on Thursday for the state tournament. Instead, Farmington will be there for the first time since 2003.
With a 17-4 record, a Missota Conference title and Section 1AAA championship, the Tigers were confident as they prepared for the Class AAA tourney.
After their brilliant performance in the section playoffs last week, it was understandable.
The Tigers entered the Section 1AAA tournament as the No. 2 seed and knocked out Winona 9-2, Rochester Mayo 12-2, Hastings 4-3 and Rochester John Marshall 5-1 to win the title. The girls had to travel to Austin for the final rounds, which kept them focused.
“We knew they were all good teams and they had good players,” senior Allie Rice said. “It helped us focus. We were out of town and we hadn’t played those teams yet.”
Hastings came in as the defending state champion and Rochester John Marshall was the top seed, but Farmington was unfazed.
“Sections was the most we played as a team,” senior Taylor Haakana said. “We worked with each other and backed each other up. Some games one person would get a hit then go cold, but another girl would step up.”
In the section final, the Tigers handed John Marshall its most one-sided loss of the season.
John Marshall “squeezed by the whole tournament, always by one run,” Farmington senior Brooklynn Searles said. “We said going in we were going to make them fight for it.”
Pitcher Ashley Betzold held Rochester John Marshall to three hits while earning her 17th victory. She helped out at the plate too, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and a home run.
Every night it’s been someone new stepping up with a key RBI or play in the field.
“Everyone loves the game and everyone loves to win, but I think this group has a little more fight in them,” senior Erin Wurst said.
Seniors Wurst, Haakana and Rice have been playing softball together since kindergarten. They said were proud of the fact they were part of the first Farmington team to qualify for state since 2003, and they hope this is just the beginning.
With just four seniors, the Tigers relied heavily on several underclassmen to get them to state.
“We have a young team, but the younger girls have really stepped up,” Haakana said. “We wanted (to go to state) a lot, but those girls have shown us that they really want it too.
“We’re always telling each other to be focused. Even if they’re not seniors, we’re on each other to stay on their game. They stepped up and played like seniors.”
When asked how to define the team, Searles, who moved from Rosemount last year, said “family.”
“There’s no drama,” she said. “We’re all friends. We’re all backing each other up. If someone is having a bad day, everything goes away when you step in the dugout.”
The girls were scheduled to play Section 4AAA champion Stillwater at 9 a.m. Thursday, with a second game scheduled for 3 p.m. On Friday, the consolation final is scheduled for 9 a.m., with the third-place game at 11 a.m. and the state final at 2 p.m.