A couple of bad breaks early on set the tone for Farmington's second straight 0-2 showing at the Class 3A state tournament in North Mankato.
After getting the leadoff hitter on base in last Thursday's first-round game against Forest Lake, No. 2 hitter Molly Berdan hit a ground ball that looked destined for right field. Instead, the ball hit the base runner for an out and the Tigers went quietly in the top of the first. An inning later, a close call at second base went Forest Lake's way and paved the way for a two-run inning. The Rangers went on to win 3-1 and earn a third-place finish.
The Tigers, who stranded seven runners on base in the opener, were then silenced by Orono pitcher Hannah Bergh, who struck out 13 in a 2-0 shutout in the consolation bracket.
"We were in Game 1 right down to the final out.... A hit here or there and we win that game," said coach Paul Harrington, who has now guided Farmington to state in each of his first two seasons. "The Orono pitcher was the best one we saw all year. She was at the top of her game, which was evident in her high number of strikeouts. She was very good."
The Tigers scored their lone run of the tournament on a sixth-inning passed ball against Forest Lake. Jordyn Keprios led the team with two hits and Berdan, Ashley Betzold, Amber Doyle and Toni Hunsinger each had one.
Betzold made her third career state tournament start and held a high-powered Forest Lake team to three runs and eight hits in six innings. The Rangers padded their lead with a solo home run in the fourth.
Betzold had another solid outing a couple hours later against Orono, allowing two runs on seven hits in six innings.
The Tigers managed just three hits, one apiece from Berdan, Doyle and Betzold.
The loss left the team with a final record of 20-7.
"We had a great season. The kids improved and got better every game throughout the year. Our pitching and defense was great and kept us in both games. We just needed more with our bats," Harrington said. "We do not dwell on the 0-2 record at state. We will always have great memories of our trip to the state tournament and the journey that got us there."
The Tigers lose just two players from this team, but its two important players in Betzold and Hunsinger. Both were all-conference players for the Tigers and were instrumental in getting the team to state the last two years.
"We will greatly miss Ashley and Toni. They were our battery for the second half of the season, and that is always a tough combination of players to replace on defense in the same season," Harrington said. "Those two also carried big bats in the middle of our lineup, so others will have to pick up the slack on the run production, too."