Softball semis: F.H. Mercy, Dakota reach D1 final
East Lansing — Farmington Hills Mercy made the most of its second straight trip to the Division 1 state softball semifinals, defeating Mattawan, 9-6, on Thursday at Michigan State.
No. 2 Mercy plays No. 1 Macomb Dakota in Saturday’s 10 a.m. final.
“This was our biggest goal, to get back and win (semifinal game) to get the chance to play for a state title,” said senior Cari Padula, referring to last year’s semifinals loss to Caledonia. “I’m proud of the whole team.”
Thursday’s game was played in steady rain that included a 55-minute delay in the top of the third inning.
Mercy, however, got things going before the delay, batting around in the second inning to score five and turning a 2-0 deficit into a 5-2 lead.
After stranding runners on second and third in the first, sophomore catcher Anna Dixon made sure Mercy wouldn’t do it again in the second, lining a double off the third baseman’s leg for an RBI and sending Megan Satawa to third.
After a walk to Sophia VanAcker, Abby Krzywiecki was hit by a pitch to force in the tying run and keep the bases loaded for Padula.
The right-hander delivered, just missing an opposite field grand slam when the ball sailed just right of the foul pole before lining a one-hop double off the left-field fence to clear the bases.
“It would have been awesome if that ball went out, but you just have to regain your focus,” Padula said. “I just took a deep breath and got back in the box. I got an inside pitch and that’s where I love it. I got a hold of it. It was pure excitement after that.”
Mercy coach Alec Lesko was proud of Padula for regrouping after the near miss grand slam.
“This kid’s got some mental toughness,” Lesko said. “She stepped out, kind of started at the ground for a second and regrouped. We talked about it and said you might get something inside now since you went deep away. She was sitting on it. I was glad that one stayed fair.”
Dixon and junior shortstop Shannon Gibbons led Mercy’s 11-hit attack, each going 3-for-4 and scoring two. Padula had a double, a single and four RBIs.
Mattawan made things interesting with two runs in the bottom of the third and one in the fifth to cut the deficit to 6-5.
Mercy answered when Dixon hit a leadoff double, took third on a sacrifice, and scored on Krzywiecki’s double. Padula followed with an RBI single and scored on Nicole Belans’ single.
Senior Andrea Elmore got the win, giving up the six runs on nine hits, and striking out eight.
Mackenzie Swinehart (Western Michigan) had three hits for Mattawan (32-9).
Macomb Dakota 4, Midland 2: Dakota continued its impressive tournament run where it has outscored opponents 57-3.
Dakota (38-2) scored a run in the second, and three in the third to give pitcher Kendahl Dunford some breathing room. After throwing five straight shutouts entering the semifinals, she gave up two runs in the fourth before shutting down Midland.
Dunford improved to 35-2, allowing six hits, striking out nine and walking one.
“The nerves of being out there for the first time, the excitement and anxiousness were there, but for the most part we took care of business,” said Dakota coach Rick Fontaine.
“We played great defensively and on the mound Kendahl Dunford did a great job keeping them off-balance.”
Dunford had two hits to lead Dakota’s six-hit attack. Kattie Popko doubled and Claire Hamlin followed with an RBI single to start the scoring. Julia Salisbury’s two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the third opened up a 4-0 lead.
Julia Gross had two hits and an RBI for Midland (36-8).
Vicksburg 7, Livonia Ladywood 5: Ladywood (32-13) scored three in the opening inning, highlighted by consecutive doubles by Alexa Flores and Cecilia Werner to start the game. It opened up a 5-0 cushion following a two-run homer by Rozlyn Price in the third before Vicksburg’s comeback.
Vicksburg (36-8) scored two in the bottom of the third due to a wild streak by Price, who walked three in the inning and had multiple wild pitches as well.
Then, Vicksburg scored five in the fourth, taking advantage of more walks and wild pitches, along with an error to start the rally.
In all, Ladywood pitchers walked eight and had six wild pitches.
All games at Michigan State, East Lansing
All finals Saturday
Macomb Dakota 4, Midland 2
Farmington Hills Mercy 9, Mattawan 6
Final: 10 a.m.
Vicksburg 7, Livonia Ladywood 5
Escanaba vs. Richmond
Final: 12:30 p.m.
DIVISION 3 — FRIDAY
Grandville Calvin Christian vs. Millington, 10 a.m.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic vs. Gladstone, 12:30 p.m.
Final: 3 p.m.
DIVISION 4 — FRIDAY
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Morenci, 3 p.m.
Indian River Inland Lakes vs. Holton, 5:30 p.m.
Final: 5:30 p.m.