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Softball: Tigers tripped up twice at state

Farmington shortstop Taylor Yousse shows the umpire the ball after tagging out a Stillwater base stealer during Thursday's opening-round game at the Class AAA State Tournament in North Mankato.

The Farmington softball team looked overmatched by Stillwater in the opening round of the Class AAA State Tournament last Thursday.

But by the end of the day Friday, so did the rest of the eight-team field at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

The Ponies entered with the most losses of any team in the Class 3A portion of the tournament - eight - due in large part to a rigid Suburban East Conference schedule. It seemed to prepare them well as they followed up an 11-0 victory over the Tigers in the first round with a 6-2 win over Mankato East in the semifinals, and then topped Maple Grove 6-2 in the championship game Friday afternoon to secure their first state title since 1998.

"You have to give a lot of credit to that team. They're pretty solid, obviously. They hit the ball hard and could have scored even more runs," Farmington coach Paul Harrington said. "And they had probably the best pitcher we've seen all year. It's hard to hit when you don't see pitching like that all year."

That pitcher was Heather Heacox, who won all three games for the Ponies, including the 33rd no-hitter in tournament history against Farmington. She went on to allow just three earned runs and strike out 31 hitters in 21 innings.

The Tigers stuck around for a while as they trailed 1-0 heading into the fourth. The Ponies were spraying line drives all over the park, but had several base-runners erased early on thanks to a couple of nice throws on stolen base attempts by catcher Allie Rice and a 1-4-2 double play on a bunt that ended the third.

The floodgates opened in the top of the fourth when Stillwater started the inning with a pair of singles. Both runners came around to score when a line drive hit off the wrist of the left fielder and rolled all the way to the wall. It was the first of five Farmington errors.

Stillwater went down 1-2-3 in the fifth, but came back with two more runs in the sixth courtesy of two hits, a walk and an error.

Four more hits and three more errors in the seventh upped the Stillwater lead to 11-0.

Farmington pitcher Ashley Betzold allowed 11 runs (two earned) on 13 hits and struck out three.

Betzold improved on the mound and was even better at the plate in Friday morning's consolation game.

Betzold allowed just one earned run and tied a state tournament record with two solo home runs as the Tigers fell 4-3 in eight innings to Bloomington Jefferson. The Jaguars went on to defeat Forest Lake to win the consolation bracket.

Taylor Yousse had Farmington's only other hit, an RBI single in the fourth.

Jefferson's first three runs were all unearned courtesy of six Farmington errors before a walk and a double plated the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth.

"This was a good learning experience. It shows us where we've got to get to. We're a good team, but this showed us what else is out there," Harrington said. "The girls see what we want to be."

The Tigers finished the season with a record of 17-6. They were Missota Conference co-champions with Shakopee and won four straight tournament games to claim the Section 1AAA crown.