For the second straight year Hastings looks to be Farmington's biggest obstacle in its bid for a state tournament berth.
Last May 29 the Tigers survived a 4-3 scare against a 9-12 Raiders team in the Section 1AAA semifinals and went on to defeat Rochester John Marshall in the finals to earn the program's second-ever state tournament trip at Todd Park in Austin. The Tigers are once again the No. 1 seed in Austin, but this year they faced a Raiders team that earned the No. 2 seed and posted a 14-6 record while playing in the Suburban East Conference.
Regardless of Tuesday's result, both teams will be back in action this afternoon. The winner needs just one more victory to advance to the Class 3A state tournament in Mankato, while the loser will have to win three games in a row to move on.
"Hastings will be very tough," Farmington coach Paul Harrington said. "They could have very easily been the No. 1 seed... We will need to be at our best."
The Tigers (17-4) built some momentum with a pair of fairly easy victories last week. They disposed of ninth-seeded Rochester Century 10-0 in five innings in an opening-round section home game last Wednesday before traveling to Austin for a 6-2 defeat of fifth-seeded Winona on Friday.
A four-run second inning put Farmington in control early against the Winhawks. Maddie Muelken started the inning with a single and, after an error, scored on a Jordyn Keprios single. Taylor Yousse followed with an RBI single of her own and Amber Doyle ripped a two-run single to make it 4-0.
Yousse started the fourth with another base hit and Ashley Betzold helped herself with a two-run home run to make it 6-0.
Betzold went all seven innings on the mound and allowed four hits while striking out seven.
"We will need that from her the rest of the way," Harrington said.
Yousse finished 3 for 4 and Betzold and Doyle each supplied two of the Tigers' 11 hits.
Six first-inning runs spelled trouble for visiting Rochester Century in last Wednesday's section tournament opener.
The Panthers hurt themselves with five errors, including two in the big first inning. The opening frame also featured a leadoff single by Carly Esselman, a two-run single by Doyle and RBI doubles by Keprios and Molly Berdan.
Doyle, Esselman, Berdan and Keprios each finished with two of the team's 11 hits.
"The girls came out swinging and made a statement in the first inning. For the most part, we are a young team and that just helped take some of the pressure off," Harrington said.
Betzold picked up another win, striking out five and allowing two hits. She also had a sacrifice fly and an RBI double.