Softball and baseball semifinal picks: Markowski, blindfolded, has your winners
Mattawan – Alicia Smith has been here before and it hasn’t always been a successful trip.
The veteran coach at Mattawan saw her team lose in the Division 1 semifinals each of the past two past two seasons and the Wildcats are back in the semifinals, and will play Macomb Dakota on Thursday at Michigan State at 5:30 p.m.
Mattawan did win state titles in 2011 and ’13, however.
Smith sports a balanced list of seniors and underclassmen led by junior pitcher Emily Koperdak, who was a Total Softball/State Champs Softball Player of the Year candidate. Koperdak committed to Northern Kentucky. She’s 15-4 with a 3.10 ERA. Koperdak is hitting .478 with 20 doubles and 51 runs scored.
Koperdak is hoping for a more smooth performance than the one she put forth last season in this round when she gave up 11 hits and nine earned runs in a 9-6 loss to Farmington Hills Mercy.
The top seniors are third baseman Joanna Bartz and shortstop Alexis Taube. Bartz, who signed with Michigan State, started the season as one of the 10 players on the Softball Player of the Year list before being replaced by Koperdak. Bartz is batting .556 with 56 RBI and 56 runs scored. Taube signed with Kent State and has hit with power all season. She’s batting .522 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI.
These three have combined to hit 30 home runs.
Dakota is a team that is offensively-minded and also has one of the state’s top pitchers in Kendahl Dunford, who was one of the final four candidates for the Softball Player of the Year award. Dunford struggled in the quarterfinals as her team trailed 4-0 to Garden City entering the sixth inning. Dakota pulled out a 6-5 victory and Dunford, like Koperdak, is looking for a better performance in this semifinal.
Dakota reached its first state final last season before losing to Mercy. Pick: Mattawan.
All games will be played at Michigan State University (weather permitting)
Other Thursday games
Clarkston vs. Grandville, 3: Both teams won one-run games in the quarterfinals and we could be seeing another one-run affair here. Pick: Clarkston.
Richmond vs. Escanaba at 10 a.m.: One of two teams from the Upper Peninsula in the semifinals, Escanaba lost to Richmond in a semifinal last season. Pick: Richmond.
Stevensville Lakeshore vs. Ida, 12:30 p.m.: Since 2009 Lakeshore has won three state titles. Ida lost in the Division 3 final in 2006 and won a Class C title in the 1990s and 1980s. Pick: Lakeshore.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central vs. Shepherd, 3: SMCC has Meghan Beaubien and the last two state titles. Pick: SMCC.
Gladstone vs. Napoleon, 5:30: Gladstone reached the semifinal round last season. Napoleon is attempting to reach its first state final. Pick: Napoleon.
Kalamazoo Christian vs Indian River Inland Lakes, 10 a.m.: Inland Lakes lost in the final last season. Christian won a title in 2013. Pick: Inland Lakes.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford vs Coleman, 12:30 p.m.: Whiteford was a power in Class D but hasn’t been in a final since 1994. Coleman won the title in 2005. Whiteford’s 1-0 victory over USA in a quarterfinal was most impressive. Pick: Whiteford.
Northville vs. Grand Haven, 9 a.m.: It’s been 45 years since Northville reached this round. Grand Haven had never won a region title until this season. Pick: Grand Haven.
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett vs. Saline, 11:30 a.m.: The decision by University Liggett coach Dan Cimini to move up to Division 1 (from Division 3) this season and next had some merit, don’t you think? Saline was able to rest its top two starters in the quarterfinal and should be more than ready. Saline is seeking its first state title. University Liggett has won five state titles including the Division 3 title last season. Pick: Saline.
Stevensville Lakeshore vs Chelsea, 2:30: This division sports some familiar faces. Only John Glenn has not won a title of the four remaining but Glenn did reach the final in 2012. Lakeshore is one of many teams in the southwestern part of the state that has a rich baseball tradition. Pick: Lakeshore.
Dearborn Divine Child vs Bay City John Glenn, 5: Tony DeMare left Divine Child after last season after a long and successful career as head coach. Divine Child graduate Dan Deegan hasn’t dropped the baton. Pick: Divine Child.
Madison Heights Bishop Foley vs. Caro, 9 a.m.: Caro has never been to a state final and couldn’t beat Bishop Foley in a month of Sundays. Pick: Bishop Foley.
Traverse City St. Francis vs Schoolcraft, 11:30 a.m.: St. Francis won the Class D title in 1990 but has been pretty quiet in the state tournament since. Schoolcraft has never been to a state final. Pick: St. Francis.
Unionville-Sebewaing vs Portland St. Patrick, 2:30: St. Patrick defeated Muskegon Catholic Central, 6-0, and C.C. is a program that often advances to the semifinals. The Crusaders lost in a semifinal in 2012 and won the title in 2015. Pick: St. Patrick.
Hudson vs Gaylord St. Mary, 5: The sentimental favorite has to be Hudson. Hudson has never been to a state final. St. Mary has been a bridesmaid twice and lost in a semifinal last season. Pick: Hudson.