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Dundee pulls away from surprising Riverview Richard with big sixth, heads to semis for first time since ’13 title

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, June 11, 2019, 4:07 pm

NOVI — The kids came to the rescue.

Stuck in a back-and-forth quarterfinal game with a team that entered the postseason with five wins, Mikey Moody, the coach of No. 2-ranked Dundee, was perfectly fine that he had three freshmen in a row coming up in what shaped up to be the biggest inning of the game.

Freshman McKenna Salley’s bases-loaded squeeze bunt keyed a five-run sixth inning for the Vikings, who pulled away to win 8-3, earning their first semifinal trip since their state title season six years ago.

“I was pretty pleased when we were coming to the sixth, because I knew we had 2-3-4 coming up. We have a nice hitting team. We do. Some days are better than others, but I know they’re resilient. I like where we’re at, and I knew where they were coming up in the last inning. I looking to get one, but I’ll take the others,” Moody said.

“The younger kids — my four, five and six hitters are all freshmen, and they ended up playing really well in tournament play right now.

“We don’t bunt a lot, but we needed to do it today, and we got it down, and I think that turned the tables a little bit, and got the kids some confidence. But we’ve definitely gotta do a better job of hitting, that’s for sure.”

Dundee advances to Friday’s first Division 3 semifinal at 3 p.m., facing Schoolcraft for the right to play in Saturday’s D3 title contest against either Millington or Standish-Sterling Central.

The Vikings haven’t been to the final week of play since 2013, when they won the Division 3 title, beating Unionville-Sebewaing Area 3-0 in the championship game. It was their only appearance in the quarterfinals or beyond, until this season.

“We’ve had to go through SMCC the last six years … that’s a nice roadblock,” Moody said of his program’s struggle to get past the Kestrels of Monroe St. Mary CC, who won three straight D3 titles (2015-17). “But our teams have always been solid, and I’ve got a nice group. They’re just a different mix. Actually at the beginning of the year, we weren’t this vocal or anything. Just probably the last two weeks of the season, that’s when we started being more vocal.”

A lot of that increase in vocalization has come from those three aforementioned youngsters in the middle of the lineup, a threesome that no longer plays like freshmen.

“My catcher, Emily Killion, beginning of the year, I’d ask her a question, and she’d just look at me, just with her eyes open. Now she’s looking at me, telling me things I need to know as a coach. She has matured so much this year,” Moody said. “McKenna Salley has done a really nice job out in left, and she’s right now hitting the heck out of the ball, and Kelsie Schmidt, who’s just DP’ing right now, but she’s had some huge hits, last weekend and today. She’s just resilient.”

It was Schmidt’s older sister, Toledo-bound senior McKenna, who started the sixth-inning rally with a single. Her senior teammate, Hannah Tackett — another University of Toledo signee — followed with a bunt single, then Killion walked to load the bases.

That’s when Moody dialed up the first squeeze bunt, having Salley lay it down to score McKenna Schmidt from third with the go-ahead run. Kelsie Schmidt brought home another with a groundout to first, then Ashley Salenbein laid down the second squeeze of the inning to score a third run, making it 6-3. Ashley Feitz brought home two more runs with a single, making it 8-3.

“I don’t think they were expecting it with the bases loaded, and right after that, so we went ahead and did it again, then we had a big hit from Ashley Feitz,” Moody said. “The girls feed off momentum, like anything else. But today was a little tougher than what we probably thought we were going to get, so it’s something we’ve gotta get our mindset right with.”

If observers were just lookin at the record for Gabriel Richard — 9-19-1 — they might’ve expected a lopsided game in favor of Dundee. But the Pioneers, who had to run the gauntlet of the Catholic League — facing Division 1 schools in Farmington Hills Mercy and semifinalist Warren Regina, along with Allen Park Cabrini, ranked No. 3 in D3 in the final coaches poll — were a team that started slowly, and had won five straight coming into Tuesday’s contest.

“The girls battled. We had a rough start, new coaches, new everything. They stuck together like we asked them to, and made a good run,” Gabriel Richard coach Vince Allesandrini said, noting that the Pioneers didn’t begin to gel until late in the season. “Well, I knew we had it from the beginning, just learning a new system. Right around our 21st game, we started finding out what positions they could play, and where to play them. And they started responding.”

They gave Dundee a game, too, tying it up at 1-1 on Claire Hesson’s RBI single in the third, then taking a 2-1 lead an inning later on Sharmayne Becraft’s bloop single.

Kelsie Schmidt’s two-run single in the fourth gave the Vikings a 3-2 lead, but Becraft blooped in another RBI single in the top of the sixth to tie it at 3-3.

But the Vikings quickly separated in the bottom half of the inning, finally pulling away for good.

“The last inning, where they scored five runs, the ball just bounced their way,” Allesandrini said. “It’s called sports.”