Dakota softball gets past Midland, advances to state championship game

Dakota gets Farmington Hills Mercy in title game

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published June 16, 2016

 The Macomb Dakota softball team moved to 38-2 on the season with a 4-2 win over Midland High June 16 in a Division 1 state semifinal. Pictured is Cougars senior third base Kelsey Ramus during a June 14 win over Garden City High.

The Macomb Dakota softball team moved to 38-2 on the season with a 4-2 win over Midland High June 16 in a Division 1 state semifinal. Pictured is Cougars senior third base Kelsey Ramus during a June 14 win over Garden City High.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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EAST LANSING — Before this season, the Macomb Dakota softball team had not advanced past the regional round of the state playoffs.

Now the Cougars are one win away from a state championship after beating Midland High 4-2 in a Division 1 state semifinal played June 16 at Michigan State University,

The Cougars (38-2) advance to take on Farmington Hills Mercy (42-2) in the D-1 state title game at 10 a.m. June 18 at MSU. Mercy beat Mattawan High 9-6 June 16 to get to the title game. Mercy led 5-2 in the third inning before an hour-long rain delay and was able to hang on.

Dakota players after the state semifinal win made it clear getting here was the goal.

“We’ve been talking about this since we lost our predistrict game last year,” said Dakota junior pitcher Kendahl Dunford, who won her 38th game of the season in the state semi. “For us to now be playing for a state championship is an indescribable feeling.”

Dakota took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a single by junior outfielder Claire Hamlin, driving in junior outfielder Kattie Popko, who had doubled.

The Cougars opened things up in the bottom of the third. A bloop single to shallow left by senior infielder Kelcie LaTour scored sophomore shortstop Corbin Hison to give her team a 2-0 lead. Hison had reached on an error. A double off the left-field wall from junior designated player Julia Salisbury plated LaTour and junior outfielder Melissa Charbonneau to give Dakota a 4-0 lead after three innings. 

“It was good for us to get some runs and jump out to a lead early,” Dakota coach Rick Fontaine said. “We got those runs early and that put a lot of pressure on (Midland) to try to battle back.”

Errors played a role in Midland (36-8) cutting the Dakota lead to 4-2 in the top of the fourth.

Midland junior shortstop Julia Gross hit a shot to center field that was misplayed, allowing junior pitcher Maya Kipfmiller to score. An overthrow home allowed Gross to score.

Those Midland runs, one was unearned, represented the first runs Dakota has allowed since the opening game of the district round. The Cougars gave up one run to Utica High in a May 31 predistrict game.

“I don’t think we made that many errors for the entire postseason,” Fontaine said. “It’s good we got them out of the way on that one play.”

“Our center fielder wanted to dive for the ball, but it just got past her,” said Dunford, who in the complete-game win allowed six hits and struck out nine. “After that play and after they got those runs, we knew we had to settle down and get back on our game.”

Midland threatened again in the top of the sixth, sending the tying run to the plate three times in the inning, but failed to get a run across the plate.

Kipfmiller got the complete-game loss, pitching six innings and giving up six hits, striking out two and allowing four runs — three unearned.

"We'd been able to score runs on some of the best teams all season, so we weren't worried about that," Midland coach Robin Allen said. "They just made some really good defensive plays."

The two-run difference is the smallest margin of victory for Dakota in the playoffs. Salisbury’s two-run double proved to be the difference.

“I go up to bat with the idea of getting a hit every time,” Salisbury said. “I went up there looking to hit it to left field and got a big hit.

“That was for the team. Everything we do is for the team. Now we’re playing for a state title.”

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