In previous years, Farmington was used as an early-season measuring stick for the Northfield softball team.
Typically one of first games of the season, the Raiders and Tigers clashed in a non-conference game between two non-section opponents, and Northfield used that performance to gauge where it stacks up in that particular campaign.
In 2019, when the Raiders claimed their first state championship, one of the earliest signs that might be possible was a 6-5 victory at Farmington in the first game of the season in which a sophomore named Brynn Hostettler made her Northfield debut with 5⅓ innings pitched out of the bullpen to earn the win.
On Thursday afternoon, those roles of big sibling and little sibling will be reversed in a Section 1-4A winner’s bracket semifinal game at Todd Park in Austin, where Northfield (19-2) is the top seed and Farmington (10-11) — the defending Section 1-4A champs — is seeded fifth. The matchup is the first in the postseason between the geographic rivals since 2015, the year before the Tigers jumped up into the newly formed Class AAAA.
The winner advances to the winner's bracket final Tuesday, June 8 in Austin. The loser needs to quickly regroup for an elimination game later Thursday evening against the winner of another elimination game between third-seeded New Prague and seventh-seeded Rochester John Marshall.
“They’re a good team every year,” Northfield coach Ryan Pietsch said about Farmington. “Their record this year might not be as good as it’s been in years past, but they’re playing in the South Suburban Conference and playing tough competition every night they go out on the field. We have to come ready to go because we know they’re going to come ready to go. We just have to match that intensity.”
Hostettler, now a senior, hurled her seventh no-hitter of the season in Tuesday night’s 8-0 victory against eighth-seeded Rochester Mayo (7-15) to start the postseason.
The right-hander recorded 16 of the 21 outs via strikeout, and allowed just two baserunners on a pair of walks.
“The defense did great,” Hostettler said. “Gabi (Schmoll) did great at third, and everything was good.”
The offense was relatively quiet — especially compared to Friday’s 25-0 victory at Albert Lea, which cinched up a perfect 11-0 Big 9 Conference record.
The Raiders led 1-0 after the first inning and 3-0 after the second frame. That lead was extended to 5-0 after the fifth and 8-0 to finish the sixth, but Northfield’s typical thump wasn’t present throughout the contest.
“Tonight, it probably wasn’t our best hitting night but we still did enough to put up eight runs,” Pietsch said. “That just goes to show what we’re capable of.”
Hostettler provided the only extra-base hit of the evening with her sixth-inning RBI double, while sophomore Courtney Graff singled three times and scored three runs. Payton Fox, Katie Balster, Sammy Noreen, Avery Valek and Chloe Rozga all singled once.
Noreen and Balster both drove in a run apiece, while Schmoll, Balster and Valek all scored a run apiece. Ava Stanchina and Lucy Menssen both scored a run after entering as courtesy runners.
In this year’s regular-season matchup against Farmington — a 2-0 victory — Northfield managed only four hits against Hailey Hagedom.
“We just need to come out stronger,” Fox said.
Fox and Hostettler remember Hagedom throwing a rise ball with a changeup that kept them off balance the first time around.
In Farmington’s quarterfinal victory at fourth-seeded Owatonna on Tuesday, it instead used Madi Lee in the circle, and the senior delivered with seven innings pitched. She allowed five hits, three walks and two runs (one earned), while striking out 13 batters.
That was also the second time Farmington faced Owatonna after a 2-1 regular-season victory, and its offense certainly livened up with a second chance against the Huskies.
After Hostettler fired a complete-game shutout with 15 strikeouts and only three hits allowed the first time against the Tigers, she said she’s mindful about mixing up her pitch selection Thursday afternoon.
“I think with Farmington I’ll probably throw more changeups just because we’ve already faced them,” Hostettler said, “so that’ll be the main thing I focus on is throwing more changeups.”
Around the section
No. 5 Farmington 10, No. 4 Owatonna 2
While the offense was certainly alive for the Tigers (10-11) on Tuesday, it did take a while to loosen up. Farmington led 2-0 after the fourth inning and 4-0 after the fifth, but it added six of their runs in the top of the seventh to make the final scoreline so comfortable.
Erika Krei, Morgan Benedict and Emma Buesgens all finished with two hits for Farmington, while Owatonna (11-10) committed five errors.
Farmington is set to play Northfield on Thursday afternoon, while Owatonna battles Rochester Mayo in an elimination game Thursday.
No. 6 Lakeville South 11, No. 3 New Prague 0
The Cougars (9-10) wasted little time Tuesday afternoon in dispelling the notion it was the underdog in their quarterfinal matchup with the Trojans (12-8).
Lakeville South snagged a 3-0 in the top of the first before adding two runs in the third and six more in the fourth. Cougar pitcher Madeline Nutter allowed only two hits and no walks in the five-inning complete game, which included seven strikeouts.
Offensively, Lakeville South racked up 13 hits, with Bree Beck notching a double and two singles, Raelyn Costley slapping three singles, and Kaylee Hafermann finishing with a pair of singles.
Lakeville South advances to play second-seeded Lakeville North on Thursday afternoon in Austin, while New Prague is set to battle Rochester John Marshall on Thursday in an elimination game.
No. 2 Lakeville North 7, No. 7 Rochester John Marshall 1
Lexi Haglund came within one inning of firing the section’s second no-hitter of the afternoon before she allowed a seventh-inning solo home run to the Rockets (14-7).
That had little consequence on the final result, however, as the Panthers (14-5) had already staked themselves to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, and then subsequently adding two runs in the fourth and one in the sixth.
McKinley Malecha and Alyssa Bowersox both finished with a double and two singes, while Faith Daehlin and Jordan Ahrenstoff both notched a pair of singles.
Lakeville North advances to play sixth-seeded Lakeville South on Thursday afternoon, while Rochester John Marshall battles third-seeded New Prague on Thursday in an elimination game.