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Dakota survives another state tournament scare PHOTO GALLERY

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Cougars trailed Garden City 4-1 heading into the seventh

DETROIT >> Dakota has now survived two scares in the Division 1 state softball tournament.

“The fact that you have to rally kind of tells you that we better be more prepared next time,” Cougars coach Rick Fontaine said after his squad’s 6-5 win over Garden City in a state quarterfinal game on Tuesday at Wayne State University. “It’s a great thing that we moved forward, but now I hope we go back and say we can’t let that happen again.”

Dakota trailed 4-1 heading to the top of seventh and scored five runs on just two hits. Three Garden City errors helped.

“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 do in practice every day. That’s the really the biggest things.

“Once it got going the confidence comes up and every girl that comes to the plate is just that much more confident,” Fontaine continued. “It just snowballs.”

Dakota faced a 4-2 deficit to Ford in a district final and rallied with three runs in the top of the seventh to advance with a 5-4 win.

On Tuesday, Dakota loaded the bases with no outs thanks. After a rope to centerfield was snared, Kendahl Dunford dropped an outside pitch into left field to score Corbin Hison (two hits) and Olivia Patton, who reached on an error, to get to within a run.

Lauren Bobowski, who was courtesy running for Dunford, got into a rundown on a grounder to third by Jackie Popko (two hits) and eventually beat the throw as Kattie Popko (two hits) crossed home plate to tie the game. Arieanna Grammatico followed with a fielder’s choice to plate Bobowski and then Jackie Popko came home on a wild pitch to put Dakota up 6-4.

“We played a clean came until the seventh,” Garden City coach Barry Patterson said. “Quite frankly they didn’t hit the ball hard, but found a couple of spots and we bobbled a few in the last inning. Sometimes the last three (outs) are harder than the first 18.

“We started to get a little anxious to get the outs because they were easy plays and we pulled our gloves out a little bit soon,” Patterson continued. “It happens. We battled. They’re one of the top teams in the state and you won’t find us anywhere near the rankings.”

Dakota beat Garden City earlier in the season 18-3.

“We were a couple of plays away from sneaking one out,” Patterson said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be in the ball game coming in. We gave it all we got. Credit to them, they kept battling too. They kept making us make plays at least.”

Dunford got the win, striking out eight and allowing nine hits.

“It’s just our drive,” Dunford said. “We just keep pushing until the end. I guess that’s who we are.”

Dakota, which ended the regular season ranked No. 1, will meet fifth-ranked Mattawan in a state semifinal at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Michigan State University. Clarkston and Grandville meet in the other semi at 3 p.m. The championship is Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

“It was like the Ford game all over again,” Dunford said. “We just wanted to get three to tie, but the more the merrier.”

Garden City (28-13) scored twice in the third and added two more runs in the fifth to go up 4-0.

Dakota (34-2) got a run in the sixth. Sam DiCicco singled home Jayme Lawitzke, who was courtesy runner for Julia Salisbury after her lead-off single, with two outs.

“We always knew we could do it,” said Fontaine, whose team totaled 11 hits. “We can score eight runs an inning if we need to and we’ve done that before against them so we knew we had that possibility to score some runs. We just had to get up there and focus on hitting the ball hard instead of worrying about getting hits and stressing. The pressure didn’t get to us like some other teams.”

Last Updated: 6/13/2017 9:49:31 PM EST