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Softball: FHS is finding its stride as season winds down

Any victory is nice, but wins take on a little extra special meaning when they can enhance your post-season prospects.

Perhaps that is why Farmington softball coach Rob Laden was a little extra excited last week after his team defeated Owatonna and Rochester Century as part of a four-game winning streak.

"It was nice to have some decisive wins against those two teams," Laden said after a 15-6 win against Owatonna and the 8-1 victory over Century.

Laden pointed to the fact that although his team had a 9-8 record after the victories, it proves the Tigers can perform well against Big Nine competition, and that could be a key when section seeds are announced. "Some of the teams that are undefeated in the Big Nine when they played Owatonna, it was much closer scores then when we played them," he said.

The two victories were just part of the good news for Laden's squad, which at one point won five out of six games last week.

"We won four straight and we have some momentum under our belt," he added.

Against Owatonna, the Tigers jumped out early, as Ashley Betzold doubled in Alyssa Hagen, who had also doubled. In the second inning and already leading by multiple runs, Aleah Williamson hit a towering shot over the left field fence for a 3-run homer to essentially put the game out of reach.

"After 3 innings, we were up 10-0," Laden said.

Betzold picked up the win on the mound for Farmington, tossing six strong innings and allowing one earned run. She also struck out five.

Against Century, the Tigers again took the lead in the first inning as Williamson led off with a single. A couple of batters later, Toni Hunsinger doubled in two runs.

The third inning saw hits by Betzold, Dani Muelken, Hunsinger, Taylor Yousse and Paige Linrud, bringing in four more runs.

Betzold allowed eight hits on the mound, and one earned run while striking out four and walking one.

"This should help our seeding at sections," Laden said. "None of the Big Nine teams have had to play Shakopee twice, who is ranked fourth in the state."

Farmington's bats have picked up the pace, according to Laden, and that showed up in a pair of other victories last week. The Tigers beat New Prague 6-0 behind a shutout pitching performance by Betzold and overpowered Northfield 11-3 in a game that featured a grand slam home run by Allie Rice.

"Our bats have warmed up like the weather," Laden said. "It's always better to be playing your best ball going into the end of the season. The team is being more patient at the plate and really starting to hit the ball better."

Farmington lost to Chaska 8-2 in its other game last week. Only two of the runs in that contest were earned, Laden said.

The offense got its two runs Alyssa Kalmes singled and came home on a double by Muelken. Rice's sacrifice fly brought home Muelken.