Faribault's McKayla Armbruster is accustomed to opponents bending to her iron will. She showed that last season at the Class 3A state tournament, pitching three complete games while striking out 37 and allowing just one hit, one walk and one run in leading the Falcons to the school's first state championship.
New Prague senior Mia Kraimer, however, is not likely to be intimidated when the teams meet Friday in Faribault and the two Division I-bound pitchers lock horns. In fact, Kraimer came out on top last spring when the Class 4A Trojans won 2-1 in a game played indoors.
Both teams lost a few key batters to graduation and runs, again, should be at a premium. And that's just the way the Minnesota State, Mankato-bound Armbruster likes it.
"She's like a bulldog," sixth-year Falcons coach Chris Silber said. "She wants the ball in the tough situations. She's like, 'Dang it, I'm gonna get it done.' When others start to tire, she just gets stronger."
Having senior Abby Van Ryn behind the plate for the Falcons (2-0, 1-0) is no small help to Armbruster, either. The two have formed a solid battery since they were in eighth grade. Van Ryn, a .412 hitter last season who has committed to play at St. Thomas, is an experienced and knowledgeable catcher who has been calling her own games for most of the past five seasons.
Kraimer, a South Dakota commit, also will challenge Armbruster as a hitter. She batted .433 last season and is joined by shortstop Kennedy Buckman (.408 in 2018) and Emily Russo (.472) at the heart of the lineup for the Trojans (0-0, 0-0).