The Faribault Falcon softball team will open the 2018 State Tournament against the Bemidji Lumberjacks Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.  The Class 3A top ranked Falcons go into the tournament with just two losses all season and only one loss to a Class 3A team.  The Lumberjacks are 16-8 and were not rated in the latest coaches rankings. Faribault received the top seed.

The Lumberjacks have lived up to their name with 10 homers and a team batting average of .383.  Bemidji's team on base percentage is a healthy .460 and their slugging percentage .513.  In 24 games they have accumulated 256 hits (10.67 per game) and 194 runs (8.08 per game).  Their most impressive team statistic may be 88 stolen bases and just 8 runners thrown out.

Falcon junior catcher Abby Van Ryn has shut down any hopes of a running game by the opposition so far this season with only 2 stolen bases in 9 attempts.  Big Nine Conference teams simply know about Van Ryn's abilities. Junior pitcher McKayla Armbruster hasn't had a lot of runners on base during the course of the year either.  I looked in my scorebook and during the playoffs only one attempted stolen base was made against Faribault and the New Ulm runner was thrown out.

Brainerd catchers have thrown out 35 of 50 stolen base attempts so the Falcons might be able to spread their wings on the basepaths.

Armbruster has allowed 62 hits in 133 innings of pitching (23 in 28 2/3 innings in the section).  The right handed thrower leads the state in strikeouts with 236 in 133 innings (43 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings in the section).  Armbruster has given up just 11 walks all year with one intentional walk (3 walks in 28 2/3 innings in section play).

Five different Lumberjack players have pitched this season with three logging 23 or more innings.  Junior Gabbi Takkunen has thrown 69 1/3 innings in 14 games and started 12.  Takkunen has allowed 93 hits, 59 runs, 36 earned, has walked 23 and struck out 33 batters.  The junior has also hit five batters and has a 3.63 ERA (earned run average).

Sophomore Maddie Hanson has thrown 48 innings in 10 games and started 8 contests.  Hanson has allowed 81 hits, 51 runs, 46 earned and has walked 17 and struck out 28 batters.  The sophomore has also hit two batters and has a 6.70 ERA.

The totals for Bemidji pitchers are 143 innings pitched, 207 hits, 133 runs, 94 earned runs, 50 walks, 77 strikeouts, 10 hit batters and a 4.60 team ERA.

Defensively Faribault has been excellent all year with just 9 regular season errors but in the sections they collected six more in four games (at least according to my scorebook).  In the State Tournament it's the little things that make the difference,  Typically these are close games determined by a run or two and extra outs are something you don't want to give a good team.

Bemidji has 31 errors in their 24 games and has turned 4 double plays.

The Lumberjacks have seven hitters with 25 hits or more this season. Sophomore Annika Takkunen with a .461 batting average and 35 hits, a .523 on base percentage and .474 slugging percentage.  Takkunen has one extra base hit and 10 RBI.  She 26 runs scored and has 16 stolen bases.  She has been caught just once all year.

Senior Samantha Edlund is second on the team in batting average (.487) and hits (37) with 4 doubles, 3 triples and a homer.  Edlunds leads the team in runs scored (37) and stolen bases (30).  She has also been caught just once this season.

Junior Evette Morgan is hitting .593 with a .625 on base percentage while playing in 17 games.  Morgan has 35 hits and 19 of them are extra base hits.  She has 13 doubles to lead the team, 2 triples and 4 homers.  Morgan leads the team in RBI with 33, has only struck out 5 times and has 4 stolen bases in 4 attempts.

Senior Mckenna Quinn played in 22 games and is batting .412 going into the State Tournament.  Quinn has 28 hits with 5 doubles and a triple.  She has 6 stolen bases in as many attempts.

Sophomore Emma Stanoch also has 28 hits and has played in every game for Bemidji, hitting .368 with 4 doubles and 25 RBI.  The sophomore is 6 of 7 in stolen bases.

Sophomore Maddie Hanson is hitting .397 with 27 hits, 6 doubles and 1 home run.  She has 20 RBI and is 5 for 5 in stolen bases.

Sophomore Gracie Fisher is batting .357 in 23 games with a .614 slugging percentage.  Fisher has 25 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers and 18 RBI.  She is 4 of 6 in stolen bases.

I'll have a preview of all the teams in Class 3A before Thursday's game.  The other teams in the tournament include #4 seed, #4 rated Winona (17-5) (in the same bracket with Faribault (20-2).  The Winhawks open with #5 seed, #7 ranked Rocori (21-4).  The #2 seed is #2 ranked North Branch (23-2) and they play Academy of Holy Angels (15-8) not ranked.  #3 seed Hill-Murray (16-3) is ranked #5 in Class 3A and plays Benilde-St. Margaret's (17-8) rated #13 in Class 3A.

The Falcons are assured of playing two games Thursday and if they win both they will be playing for a state title.  Their opener is a scheduled 11:00 a.m. first pitch so our coverage would begin at 10:45 a.m. on KDHL 920AM, www.kdhlradio.com  and the best way to listen is to download the FREE KDHL app on your favorite mobile device.

Faribault Players Pose with Section 2AAA Championship Trophy. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld