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Softball: Tigers battle and claw back but fall just short

The Farmington Tigers finished a spectacular season with a 19-7 record but fall just short of the state tournament. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Olivia Hazelbaker pitched in relief for Becca Silber in game two against Lakeville North. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Elly Rust throws home from the outfield in game one. Later on in the game, she saved a couple runs by making an over-the-shoulder catch as she crashed into the outfield fence in center field. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Farmington softball has made a living this spring by making timely comebacks, never giving up and getting clutch performances in crucial situations. This did not change during the section playoffs, and the Tigers came oh-so-close to returning to the state tournament to defend their title. However, it was not meant to be as they faced off against rival Lakeville North for the fourth and fifth times this season yesterday (Thursday) at Todd Park in Austin, Minn. Farmington came up through the consolation bracket after falling to the Panthers in the semifinals on Tuesday. They made the Section 1AAAA championship game against Lakeville North and had to beat them twice yesterday to advance to state. The Tigers took the first game in a blowout 13-2, but then lost a close one 8-7 in the second game to end their season.

Game one blowout

Game one was an uncharacteristic game between the two teams as it ended in a blowout. Four out of the five games between Farmington and Lakeville North were decided by one run, but in this one the Tigers jumped on the Panthers right away and never let up.

As the away team, Farmington scored one run in the top of the first on an RBI-single by senior Emma Frost, the first of many big-time hits for the third-baseman over the course of the two games. Her single scored junior Olivia Hazelbaker, who singled to start the inning. Heading into the top of the third, Farmington led 1-0 when sophomore Katelyn Mohr doubled to bring in Hazelbaker and junior Taylor Jasper. A sacrifice fly by senior Tarah DeCroock scored Frost to make it 4-0 after three.

The Tigers scored three more in the fourth on an RBI-single by Jasper and a two-RBI double by Frost. Another sac fly, this time by Mohr, scored Jasper and Farmington led 8-0 after four. While Lakeville North scored two in the bottom of the fifth to make it 8-2, Farmington went on to end the game in the sixth. The Tigers scored five runs in the top of the sixth, four off of a grand slam by junior Elly Rust and the other on an RBI-double by Jasper. Senior pitcher Becca Silber, who pitched the whole first game, shut down the Panthers in the bottom half to give Farmington the 13-2, 10-run rule win.

Oh so close

Now playing as the home team, the Tigers fell behind quickly in game two and were forced to once again make a gritty comeback. Silber started the second game after throwing six innings in the earlier game, but whereas the Panthers struggled to do anything against her in the first game, game two was a different story. She pitched the first two innings but Lakeville North scored four runs in the top of the second on a grand slam of their own. She was relieved by Hazelbaker in the third inning, but Hazelbaker also gave up a two-run home run in the top of the third as the Panthers' bats woke up. North led 6-0 heading into the bottom of the third.

Farmington scored one run in the third on an RBI-double by Frost that scored Jasper to put the Tigers on the board. Down 6-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, Farmington completed its comeback after the Tigers batted around. Jasper hit a two-RBI single and Frost followed her with a three-run home run to tie the game at 6-6 going into the fifth.

However, the Panthers responded by scoring one run in the top of the fifth and another in the top of the seventh. Hazelbaker pitched two innings in relief of Silber before Silber re-entered the game to pitch the final three innings. The Tigers entered the bottom of the seventh down 8-6, needing two runs to send it into extra innings and three to win. While they were able to scratch across one run to make it 8-7 on an RBI-single by junior Kaitlyn Abraham, it was not enough and they fell 8-7.

Head coach Paul Harrington said after the game that he could not be more proud of how his team played this season.

"I thought the kids played great, winning 19 or 20 games or whatever it was," he said. "I thought they fought hard during the season and they definitely fought hard all through the playoffs. That's our attitude, fight to the end and we came up a little bit short tonight, one more inning and we maybe win one."

The Tigers finish their 2017-2018 season with an overall record of 19-7. They went 15-5 in the regular season and 9-5 in the South Suburban Conference, which was good for a tie for third with, who else, Lakeville North. Seniors leaving the team this year are Frost, Korin Hall, Silber and DeCroock. While losing those key contributors, Harrington and the Tigers will bring back much of this year's team which will mean a very experienced team for 2018-2019.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a RiverTown Multimedia sports reporter covering Hastings, Farmington and Rosemount athletics. He graduated from Drake University with a journalism degree in 2014. 

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