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Dakota's Dunford changes things up in semis PHOTO GALLERY

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EAST LANSING >> It was all in the spin for Kendahl Dunford Thursday evening.

Once the senior ace settled into a rhythm she was virtually untouchable late in the Cougars’ 6-3 win over Mattawan in a Division 1 state semifinal at Secchia Stadium at Michigan State University.

Dunford, who has signed with Florida International University, scattered seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts on 85 pitches.

Her most effective pitch was a changeup that kept Mattawan’s batters at bay for much of the game.

“It’s very hard for me to throw a changeup,” Dunford admitted. “I never actually had a changeup. It’s always been on and off, on and off. So over the winter I worked on it a lot. And I think that showed today.

“Today was just one of those days that I got the spin.”

The spin on her changeup accounted for eight fly ball or pop fly outs.

“She throws so fast that her changeup is insane,” Dakota catcher Juliann Hammer said. “Hitters can’t hit them or it’s not a good hit and up in the air. Last year she struggled with the changeup and it was a big focus in the off-season. She would tend to throw it in the dirt, but this year she’s getting it up more and off speed, which is perfect.”

The fifth inning was Dunford’s signature frame as she got the top of Mattawan’s order to fly out followed by two weak ground ball outs. She finished the game by retiring the final 13 batters she faced.

“It was in the fifth that we threw a lot of changeups,” Dunford said. “The next inning, I think it made them think that the changeup was gonna come and then I was coming in with the fastball or a curve and the ball was spinning. My changeup spins like a drop ball. So I think some of them were thinking it was going to be a changeup but then it was a drop. It’s kind of a Catch-22.”

Mattawan got to Dunford a little bit in the third when the first three batters reached base safely. The Wildcats, who scored one in the first inning, did push two runs across the plate in the third. But from there, Dunford was on top of her game.

“Her changeup was perfect today,” Dakota coach Rick Fontaine said. “They’re a tremendous hitting team and she was able to keep them off balance and that was huge. You get out on your front foot you’re going to pop out a lot and that’s what the changeup does.”

Dunford also did her part at the plate, doubling in a pair during the Cougars’ four-run first inning.

“We talked about it on the bus coming here, if we score first we’re going to be fine,” Dunford said. “Every team that scores first is so confident, and once you score first in the first inning it can be hard for teams to come back. It helped out a lot.”

Last Updated: 6/15/2017 9:48:20 PM EST