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Farmington softball: Tigers take 11-6 mark into section

The Farmington softball team closed out the regular season by alternating wins and losses over a run of seven games in seven days.

The 4-3 stretch was capped off by a doubleheader split with Missota champion Chanhassen on Friday. The Tigers rebounded from a 3-2 heartbreaker by crushing the Storm 12-0 in Game 2, wrapping up an 11-6 regular season and a third-place finish in the league.

“This was a real character building game for us. We had just lost a real tough game in the bottom of the seventh inning and we are playing a team that is one win away from winning the Missota Conference championship,” Farmington coach Paul Harrington said. “Our kids did not roll over and die. We took it to them and did not give them anything.”

The Tigers earned the No. 4 seed in Section 1AAA and opened tournament play Wednesday against the winner of the 5-12 game between Rochester John Marshall and Faribault. The second-round winner will face top-seeded Lakeville South, ranked 10th in the state, in tomorrow’s semifinals at Todd Park in Austin.

To make a third straight state tournament appearance, the Tigers will need to swing the bats the way they did in Game 2 against Chanhassen. They batted around in the first inning when the first seven hitters reached base and came around to score, and then put up five more in the fourth to end the game by the 10-run rule.

Carly Esselman and Maddie Muelken each went 2 for 3. Esselman scored twice and Muelken knocked in three runs while also picking up the pitching win.

In the opener, Chanhassen overcame a 2-0 deficit with single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings.

The Tigers took the lead early thanks to an RBI single by Jordyn Keprios and a throwing error on Molly Berdan’s bunt, but didn’t produce a hit over the final four innings.

“We let them hang around too long,” Harrington said. “We couldn’t get the big hit in the earlier innings to increase our lead and put them away. Their bats heated up and we couldn’t shut them down the last two innings.”

Muelken struck out six and allowed seven hits over six-plus innings.

A day earlier, Muelken went the distance and scattered seven hits while striking out five in a 1-0 shutout on the road at Shakopee.

Leadoff hitter Esselman started the game with a single, moved to third on an error and scored the game’s lone run on Muelken’s ground out. Taylor Yousse had the Tigers’ only other hit, a single, in the fifth.

“It was a pitcher’s duel. Maddie had a great game on the mound, keeping them off balance,” Harrington said. “She came up big when they got runners in scoring position. Emily (Berdan) called a great game behind the plate. Those two work well together.”

Last Wednesday at New Prague it was the Trojans winning via shutout. The Tigers had just three hits and stranded eight base runners in a 6-0 setback.

The team also struggled defensively, committing three errors behind starter Meghan Silber.

Yousse, Molly Berdan and Ashley Ibinger each hit singles.

The Tigers’ two seniors — Keprios and Mackenzie Nelson — helped spark a late rally in last Tuesday’s Senior Night win over Chaska.

Chaska led 2-0 until the fifth when Ibinger and Keprios reached with singles. Yousse then tied the game with a two-run double and Molly Berdan followed with a two-run triple to make it 4-2.

An inning later, Nelson drove in a run with a single and came around to score the team’s sixth run on another Yousse double.

“We only had one hit going into the fifth inning. It was another slow start with our bats and we had a lot of strikeouts,” Harrington said. “But the bats exploded for seven hits in the fifth and sixth. All were hard hit balls and three of them went for extra bases. We were overdue and it was great to see.”

Muelken got the win, fanning four over seven innings.