Faribault's McKayla Armbruster delivers a pitch in a recent victory over Mound Westonka. (Photo: Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine)
The success was not unexpected, but the numbers still cause a double-take.
An 8-0 record. 62 innings pitched. Six runs allowed, just three earned. In that stretch, 131 strikeouts, including 33 in a recent 15-inning, 3-1 victory over Rochester John Marshall.
And the jewel of Faribault senior pitcher McKayla Armbruster’s current 2019 stat line: Zero walks.
“It’s one of those things where I’m -- I don’t know how to explain it – very much zoned in,” Armbruster said. “That’s one of my keys. If I can get them to swing at my rise ball, so be it. And my catcher [Aby Van Ryn] does a great job calling the game.”
The end result of Armbruster’s dominance has been her undefeated start for the defending Class 3A state champs. The Falcons lost few key seniors from a year ago, but with the battery from last year’s champs back, another state title seems a realistic goal. Armbruster, however, isn’t taking anything for granted. She said the biggest reason Faribault has picked up where it left off in the 2018 is “accountability. We don’t cut corners.”
She is well aware that defeating the reigning champs is a goal for opponents, so diligence and attention to detail is of the utmost importance.
“If someone catches the ball with one hand, we say ‘No, it’s two hands,” she said. “We always touch the top step when we’re running. Things like that. We build team chemistry by being accountable. Not by yelling, but by being encouraging.”
Oddly, Faribault’s strong start has not been enough to move it to the top of the Class 3A state rankings. That spot belongs to longtime softball power Mankato West, which is also undefeated (6-0) and a Big Nine conference rival for Faribault.
The question of who belongs atop the rankings will be settled Thursday, when Mankato West travels to play at Faribault.
Armbruster, who will pitch for MSU, Mankato next season, said that being ranked No. 2 adds an extra dollop of motivation for the Falcons.
“It does help a little that they’re ahead of us,” she said.
She was already feeling butterflies a full day before the game, but she’s grown accustomed to that feeling. It hasn’t affected her so far.
“I get nervous before every single game,” she said. My dad [Jesse] is one of our coaches and he always says it’s perfectly natural to be nervous. So I do a lot of visualizing, going play-by-play.”
And how does she see Thursday’s game playing out?
“Hopefully, we can get a few hits and I’ll do well in the circle. It’s going to be really good, really fun competition.”