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Softball: Tigers earn top seed in 1AAA

Farmington first baseman Maddie Muelken slaps a tag on a Shakopee baserunner during the first game of last week's Missota Conference doubleheader. Shakopee earned a split to capture the conference title.

A lot of good came from last Thursday's doubleheader against Shakopee, even if Farmington didn't get the sweep it needed to share the Missota Conference title with the Sabers for the second straight year.

The Tigers saw a late lead slip away in a 3-2 loss to the sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Sabers in Game 1, but battled back to salvage a split and end Shakopee's 14-game winning streak with a 1-0 shutout victory in Game 2.

Starting pitcher Ashley Betzold took the mound for the second time on a warm afternoon and held the 17-1 Sabers to two hits while striking out three. She got all the support she would need when Carly Esselman singled in the first, moved up on a Taylor Yousse bunt and scored on a Toni Hunsinger single.

"It was two great fastpitch softball games. Ashley came back strong after a tough loss in Game 1," Farmington coach Paul Harrington said. "It was playoff-type softball at a high level -- the kind of softball we need to play down the stretch in our section playoffs... We had strong pitching and defense and need to carry that forward. We just need to get our bats going and score some more runs during these pitching duels."

The split earned the Tigers second place in the Missota Conference. They finished the regular season 15-4 overall and were given the No. 1 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament, which they opened at home Wednesday against the winner of the 8-9 game between Rochester Century and Rochester Mayo. A win would move the team's journey toward a second-straight state tournament trip to Todd Park in Austin this weekend.

Vs. Shakopee

The Tigers took an early lead in Game 1 when Hunsinger singled and scored on a double to deep left by Maddie Muelken. It stayed 1-0 until Shakopee put up three runs in the top of the fifth.

Farmington answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Betzold, but couldn't plate another in the final two frames.

Vs. Chaska

The Tigers overcame deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 to complete a doubleheader sweep of Chaska with a 6-5 victory last Tuesday.

Betzold pitched all 14 innings and had to work around 10 errors as temperatures approached 100 degrees.

"We were very happy to get the sweep on the road again, which is very difficult," Harrington said. "In Game 2, we were a team that refused to lose, which is a great trait to have and something we need to carry into the section playoffs. The kids never gave up."

With the score tied at 5-5, Jordyn Keprios started the bottom of the seventh with a single. She moved to third on a bunt and a single, and pinch runner Jordyn Homeier scored the winning run when Yousse's hard ground ball to third resulted in an error.

In Game 1, Esselman, Betzold, Kendall Novak and Emily Berdan each had two hits as the Tigers pulled out to a 5-0 lead. Esselman and Betzold each drove in two runs.