North Mankato - Emma Frost had come oh-so-close in the second inning, hitting a long fly ball off the top of the fence in left center for a double.
Eight innings later, the sophomore third baseman got just a little bit more of the ball, hitting a two-out, walk-off home run to lift Farmington to a 1-0, 10-inning victory over Anoka in the Class 4A championship game.
Frost’s home run ended a scoreless pitchers’ duel between Anoka’s Amber Elliott and Farmington’s Maddie Muelken, who matched zeroes for nine innings before the game-winner.
“We knew coming in that she likes to throw a first-pitch strike and I was ready for it,” Frost said. “I knew it was coming. This is an unreal feeling.”
Farmington coach Paul Harrington was not surprised.
“We were just hoping they’d give her her pitch,” he said. “She almost hit it out in the [second]. But sooner or later we were hoping they’d make a mistake and they did.”
For Elliott, it was a disappointing end to marvelous tournament. Until Frost’s home run, the senior had pitched 26⅔ innings of scoreless softball over three games, including a 13-inning shutout over Woodbury in the semifinals the day before.
“She’s just so amazing,” Anoka coach Toni Jesinoski said. “She knew she’d have to pitch quite a few innings today. She’s just a great kid, a great ballplayer and she’s got a lot of stamina.”
As good as Elliott was in the final, Muelken was just a little bit better. She didn’t match Elliott’s 17 strikeouts, but she stayed true to her game plan, which was to keep Anoka from getting comfortable and lean on her defense. The Tornadoes collected nine hits, but left 10 runners on base.
“I just had to keep the ball low, make sure the ball stayed in the park and I knew my team had my back if they got a hit,” Muelken said. “It gives me a lot of confidence to know I can throw the ball anywhere and my team will have my back if they hit it.”
Muelken pitched 24 innings over three games, shutting out No. 1-seeded Chanhassen in the semifinals and No. 2-seeded Anoka in the final.
“Back-to-back shutouts in the state tournament against the top two seeds? You can’t get any better than that.” Harrington said. “Just awesome.
It was the second time in the past three years that Anoka had lost the championship game in the final at-bat, falling to Eastview in the seventh inning in 2015.
“We just couldn’t string the hits together,” Jesinoski said. “We had our chances, but we couldn’t put them together when we could have, when we should have.”
Harrington was told that the victory was the first state championship by a Farmington team in school history.
“We’re the first. In 100 years. Man,” Harrington said, shaking his head. “We’re very proud of that. The kids did great.”