Kendahl Dunford spot on as Dakota won pre-district over Utica
Sterling Heights – Kendahl Dunford is not one to dwell on the past.
Dunford, a junior right-hander at Macomb Dakota and one of 10 players in the running for State Champs’ Softball Player of Year contest, was the starting and losing pitcher in last season’s pre-district loss to Utica Ford. Then, just as there is now, Dakota had high expectations going into the state tournament after capturing the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title.
Dunford atoned for that setback with a stellar performance on Tuesday as Dakota whipped Utica 9-1 on Tuesday in a Division 1 pre-district at Sterling Heights Stevenson.
Dunford fanned nine, gave up two hits and one walk, and retired the last 12 batters.
Dakota (32-2) will play Stevenson (16-10) in a district semifinal on Friday at 1 p.m. The winner advances to the district final later that afternoon against the winner of Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Utica Ford.
Utica (18-11), champions of the MAC White Division, scored its run in the top of the fourth on a wild pitch. Only one other base runner reached second base and that took place in the first inning.
A key to Dunford’s success on this day, and in many other games this season, was her changeup. When she has that pitch working it makes her fastball and riser all that more effective.
“I got more comfortable with the umpire’s strike zone as the game went on,” Dunford said. “It’s not so much that last year was a disappointment. It was we were so stressed. This time it was one thing at a time. One inning at a time.
“Having all those girls (hit) in front of me is probably the best thing for me. Even the bottom of the order hits. We all go together.”
Dakota had 13 hits and five walks off of starter Sami Torongeau. All nine batters reached base safely and eight had at least one hit. Samantha Bunk, the eighth batter in the lineup, had three hits and three RBI. Kelcie LaTour, Julia Salisbury and Kelsey Ramus, the ninth batter, all had two hits. LaTour had a two-run home run that gave the Cougars a 6-1 lead in the fourth.
Bunk’s two-run single on a 1-2 pitch gave Dakota a 3-0 lead in the third. Dakota scored another run in the inning on a wild pitch.
“We’re pretty good one through nine,” Dakota coach Rick Fontaine said. “That’s what some people underestimate. The biggest hits today came in the bottom of the order.”
Perhaps Dakota’s luck has changed after this victory. The Cougars have drawn the pre-district in 13 of the last 15 seasons and they’ve lost the last two before breaking through against Utica.
“That one extra game can be brutal,” Fontaine said. “It was the same thing last year. We won the MAC Red and then played a team that we had beaten twice. It was good that Kendahl didn’t walk many today. We try to keep the full counts to a minimum. And she has a great team behind her.”