Farmington Tiger softball saw their state run come to an end on Thursday, June 6, at Caswell Park in Mankato with two losses on day one. The Tigers-who were seeded No. 5 in Class AAAA-fell to No. 4 and defending state champion Stillwater 6-2 in the first game where timely hitting was an issue for Farmington. Dropping to the consolation bracket, they then faced St. Michael-Albertville and lost 5-2 to end their season. Farmington finished 2019 with a 15-11 overall record after going 11-9 during the regular season with an 8-6 South Suburban Conference mark, which was good for sixth.
This was Farmington's third state tournament appearance in the last five years, their most recent being in 2017 when they won the state championship in dramatic fashion. Much of this year's team was around for that state championship and the Tigers will lose six seniors to graduation, all of whom played significant roles this spring-Abbie Clayton, Olivia Hazelbaker, Rebecca Hoeve, Kaitlyn Abraham, Taylor Jasper and Elly Rust. However, Farmington is set to return plenty of experience for 2020 in juniors Katelyn Hand, Katelyn Mohr, Molly Mogensen and Morgan Ebel, as well as sophomores Kayla Herda and Madeline Lee.
Farmington lost in the section championship game last summer to Lakeville North and head coach Paul Harrington said that stayed in the mind of his team.
"Yeah that was definitely one of our, I guess you'd call it 'revenge-factor', it was on our mind and we wanted to get back and we made it, that's every team's No. 1 goal and we did it," he said.
Many of the older players on the team were there back when they won it all in 2017 and Harrington said that was a differentiating factor compared to past teams of his.
"I'd say this year we've got some real veterans that went to state two years ago and they are providing great leadership and kind of tutoring the younger kids," he said. "That will really help in the future. We've been here before, it's nothing new, we know what it takes to win and we just came up a little bit short today."
Stillwater and STMA
Stillwater struck first in the Tigers first game, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. The Ponies then scored three more runs in the bottom of the third to take a 4-0 lead. Farmington got on the board in the top of the fifth when Rust walked and Clayton got on with a hit. Rust then scored on a wild pitch after a few earlier passed balls to put the Tigers on the board, while Abraham singled and brought home Clayton to make it 4-2. After a Herda single and Hazelbaker was intentionally walked, they had the bases loaded with one out but were unable to score and it was 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Stillwater scored another two runs in the bottom of the inning on a two-run home run to center and Farmington trailed 6-2 with two innings left. In the top of the sixth, Rust, Clayton and Abraham all singled to have the bases loaded with two outs, but once again the Tigers stranded all three runners and were unable to score. They then went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh and 6-2 Stillwater was the final.
After the loss to the Ponies, Harrington said it all comes down to clutch hitting.
"It's more getting the timely hit when you need it. And we didn't get a hit with the bases loaded to score some runs," he said. "The inning before, the same thing, it's just a matter of getting timely hits and many times what it comes down to, putting your hits together. We started off a little bit slower than we wanted until we'd seen her pitching a bit."
Hoeve pitched all six innings for Farmington, giving up six runs on 11 hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Abraham had the team's lone RBI while Clayton led with two hits and five other Tiger batters had one hit each.
Against St. Michael-Albertville, the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. The Knights took the lead in the top of the fourth 2-1 and then scored three more runs in the top of the fifth for a 5-1 lead. Farmington was able to score one run in the bottom of the seventh but were unable to complete the comeback and lost 5-2.
Lee pitched the first four innings and gave up two runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Hoeve pitched the final three innings and allowed three runs on five hits. Abraham again had Farmington's lone RBI and the Tigers notched just three hits by Clayton, Herda and Ebel.