Dakota overcomes late deficit to top Garden City and head back to Division 1 semifinals
Detroit – While it was an unfavorable position, Macomb Dakota had already faced a similarly difficult challenge as the Cougars faced a 4-1 deficit entering the seventh inning of Tuesday’s Division 1 quarterfinal against Garden City.
Earlier in the playoffs, Dakota trailed Utica Ford 4-2 entering the seventh inning of the District Final. Dakota responded with a three run inning to earn a 5-4 win to advance.
And on Tuesday afternoon, the Cougars would again use a big seventh inning as they would plate five runs in the top half of the seventh and hold off Garden City for a 6-5 win to head back to the Division 1 semifinals for a second straight year.
In the Division 1 semifinals, Dakota will face Mattawan, which picked up a 9-4 win over Monroe in its quarterfinal game played on Tuesday.
Dakota head coach Rick Fontaine said that even with his team down to its final three outs, he thought his players handled the pressure of facing elimination well and were able to come up with some crucial hits with the game on the line.
“It was kind of strange,” he said. “Throughout the whole game, we always knew we could do it and score some runs. We can score eight runs an inning if we need to and we’ve done that before against them (Garden City), so we knew we had that possibility to score some runs. It was really just a matter of getting up there and focusing and just hitting the ball hard instead of worrying about getting hits and stressing. The pressure didn’t get to us like it may for some other teams.”
With the bases loaded in the top half of the seventh inning, Dakota pitcher Kendahl Dunford connected for a bloop single into right field scoring one run and another would come around to score on a Garden City error.
“We came into the dugout and we were like, it’s either now or never, we’ve got to get those runs,” she said. “It was like the Ford game all over again, it all came back and that’s what we were thinking, let’s just get three and tie, but if we get more, then more the merrier.”
Dakota would then tie the game at 4-4 when Jackie Popko would ground into a fielder’s choice, but another Garden City error would allow a runner advance to third and for Popko to reach safely at first base.
The Cougars would then take their first lead of the game, 5-4, as Arieanna Grammatico would ground out to first base to score the fourth run of the inning for Dakota and Popko would later score on a wild pitch give her team a two run lead.
“We can score runs in droves,” Fontaine said. “We just weren’t having good at bats, it’s just about buckling down and doing the things we practice every day and that’s the biggest thing. We can put runs on the board and I think once things got going, the confidence goes up and every girl that comes to the plate is more confident and it’s just a snowball effect.”
And that run scored by Popko would prove to be important as Garden City wouldn’t go quietly in the seventh as it would plate a run and put the winning run on second base before Dunford would manage to get the final out to send Dakota back to the semifinals at Michigan State.