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Coleman conquers Holton, advances to D4 state semifinals for first time since 2005 WITH GALLERY

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GREENVILLE - Win the day.

It was the motto for the 2016 Coleman softball team, a juggernaut squad ranked No. 1 for much of the season and an all-time great offense in MHSAA history.

After the Comets fell short of the ultimate goal last year with a second straight loss to Holton in the Division 4 quarterfinals, they lost a core group of six seniors and many outsiders looking in perhaps thought the window was closed for the time being.

While last season ended in disappointment, Coleman brought back the 'win the day' slogan for 2017 with a team containing only one senior and four juniors to go with eight underclassmen.

The expectations within the program did not change and Tuesday afternoon at Greenville High School, the fifth-ranked Comets exacted a measure of revenge as they defeated sixth-ranked Holton 5-0 in the D4 quarterfinals to advance to the state semifinals in East Lansing.

“I'm not sure I know what to say since I've never been in this position before,” Coleman head coach Chad Klopf admitted afterward. “After losing to Holton the last two years, the vengeance was building. I'm just really happy for our girls. All the days at practice and in the gym prepared them for this kind of moment. They deserve it.”

The Comets (35-6) will play Friday at Michigan State University versus Ottawa Lake Whiteford, winners over defending D4 state champions Unionville-Sebawaing in the quarterfinals. Game time is slated for 12:30 p.m.

Coleman has not advanced to the state semifinals since 2005, when the state finals were held in Battle Creek. That year, the Comets won the state championship.

“I'm not going to lie – this is pretty legit,” Coleman sophomore second baseman MacKenzie Miller said about clinching a bid in East Lansing.

Miller, who scored an important seventh-inning insurance run on a double blasted by sophomore Jaden Berthume, says that the Coleman win is as much for the community as it is for the Comets' softball team.

“This is definitely for the community too because we've gotten a lot of support,” Miller said. “The day before we left, everyone lined up at the elementary and had signs made for us. It was special to see how much they cared about us.”

And then Coleman delivered in every aspect Tuesday.

The tone of the game was set in the bottom of the first inning when Comets junior ace Faith Barden struck out all three Red Devils she faced. While she weaved and dodged out of trouble in ensuing innings, she managed the keep the opposition off the board throughout to preserve her shutout.

Barden gave up two hits and walked one over seven innings, stranding six Holton runners.

“Faith tends to warm up as the game goes,” Klopf said. “But we have such a good defense behind her and she trusts those girls to make the plays. They made all the plays behind her today.”

Barden pitched more to contact after the first inning, striking out five more batters but also receiving plenty of good defense by Coleman players in both the infield and outfield.

Coleman grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI single by junior Autumn Tubbs, while the score remained that way until the sixth inning when the Comets tacked on an insurance run via a run-scoring single from fellow junior Kalie Weidman.

Prior to Weidman's RBI single, she saved multiple runs in the bottom of the fourth by catching a screaming liner to right field with runners on second and third base.

“We were actually supposed to walk that girl,” Klopf stated. “The instruction didn't get relayed from the catcher to the pitcher before the pitch, so we were all a little nervous there when the ball was in the air. Luckily, Kalie made a good play on it to end the inning.”

Three more runs were tacked on in the top of the seventh, beginning with a double crushed by sophomore Jaden Berthume which scored Miller.

Throughout the game, there was a general sense of looseness from the Comets as they put on an assortment of goofy hats and wigs in the dugout during at-bats and never seemed like the moment was too big for them.

“Those showed up last night at [assistant coach] Nick Katzinger's house,” Klopf said. “We had them a few years ago in districts at Breckenridge and Nick busted them out again. There wasn't necessarily a lot of stress, but there were a lot of upset people in town the last couple days when the game was moved from Saginaw Valley State to Greenville. So a little undo pressure on the girls that didn't need to be there. But they do their job. Going to practice is like work. There's not a lot of rah rah with this group. Today's probably the most rah rah they've been in a long time because they knew what was at stake.”

Berthume paced the Coleman offense with a 4-for-4 day, including a double and a triple while scoring a run and driving in one. Brianna Townsend was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while Kalie Weidman was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Liz Dana doubled and scored a run. Barden added a hit and an RBI while also drawing a walk.

Last Updated: 6/13/2017 9:31:24 PM EST