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Richmond wins another close one PHOTO GALLERY

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Blue Devils back in semifinals with eight-inning win over Divine Child

NOVI >> Emma Caperton answered the challenge.

The Richmond outfielder’s single to left field drove home Amy Thueme from second base to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth, and the Blue Devils went on to their third straight extra-inning victory of the state softball tournament, 4-2 over Dearborn Divine Child in a Division 2 quarterfinal game at Novi High on Tuesday.

Caperton’s hit followed a force-out of Carley Barjaktarovich at third base – the first out of the inning after the Blue Devils had two on and no out against the Falcons, whose run in the bottom of the fifth tied the quarterfinal rematch.

“I was just looking for something I my wheelhouse, something I could drive,” Caperton said after the defending-champion Blue Devils advanced to meet Escanaba in a state semifinal that will be Thursday at Michigan State University.

“I knew we had to get those runs," Caperton said. "We had to get ahead. I was looking for a pitch I could drive.”

The Blue Devils tacked on two more runs in the eighth, scoring on an infield hit by Rachel McKiernan and an infield error as the Falcons’ defense let down.

That enabled Richmond (32-4) to absorb Madonna University recruit Rebecca Barnes’ RBI single off Erin Shuboy in the bottom of the frame as Divine Child (19-10) lost a second consecutive quarterfinal to the Blue Devils on the Novi diamond.

“We knew we had to play a flawless game, because she (Shuboy) was going to be a powerful pitcher,” Falcons coach Regina Dunn said.

“We had this vision that we wanted to get here and win this time, and for seven innings we were confident. They put their hearts into it.”

Richmond, which won pair of one-run extra-inning games in the regional at Marysville on Saturday, scored on the first inning on aggressive base running by Barjaktarovich, and the Blue Devils threatened in the third with the bases loaded and none out.

But just as has happened in other tournament games, a key hit eluded the Blue Devils, who didn’t score in the third as Falcons pitcher Maddie Tripp settled into a duel with Shuboy.

“Close games,” Richmond coach Howard Stuart, noting what has been a theme of this Blue Devils tournament run, said.

“Extra-inning games don’t hurt you,” Stuart continued “It puts a little pressure on you. Scum and cream both rise to the top; I think we’re cream, not scum.”

Tripp retired the Blue Devils in order in the sixth and seventh innings.

Divine Child moved a runner to second with two out in the sixth, but Shuboy got one of her 13 strikeouts to end the scoring chance. The Falcons went out in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Barjaktarovich led off the game with a single and stole second. She scored from second while a Falcon infielder made an unassisted putout on a ground ball.

Angela Dunn’s single that drove home Natalie Santostasi with the tying run in the fifth was Divine Child’s first hit off Shuboy.

Richmond beat Divine Child 3-2 in the 2016 quarterfinals.

“There was more intensity this time, because they wanted it just as bad as we did,” Caperton said. “It was them coming at us.

“It was a great fight for both teams.”

The Falcons have won two regional championships in Dunn’s two seasons as coach.

“We knew we had to develop a different concept about what our program looked like and the work ethic we’d follow,” the coach said.

“We’ve gotten on a winter weight-training program; we’ve worked with our track coach to develop speed; we’re trying to do all the right things. The girls worked hard on individual skills and came together as a team.”

Richmond and Escanaba, which advanced with a 5-0 quarterfinal win over Saginaw Swan Valley, play at 10 a.m. Thursday. It will be a rematch of Richmond’s 2016 semifinal win that moved the Blue Devils into the state final.

Stevensville Lakeshore plays Ida in the other semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Last Updated: 6/13/2017 9:17:49 PM EST