ANCHOR BAY — After two nail-biting, one-run wins on its way to a Division 1 district title June 3, it was clear the Macomb Dakota softball team wanted to take care of business in the regional round and it did just that, knocking off Anchor Bay High 7-0 in a June 10 regional final.
The Cougars (33-2) advance to face either Grosse Pointe North or Garden City High in a state quarterfinal set for 4 p.m. June 13 at Wayne State University. The state semifinals and finals take place June 15-17 at Michigan State University.
The regional title is the second straight for Dakota, which finished as state runner-up in 2016.
"Obviously this means a lot to the girls and the program," Cougars coach Rick Fontaine said. "The girls who made the run last year talked about doing this again, and I'm proud of them to seeing that through."
The Cougars jumped on the Tars early. Dakota plated four runs in the bottom of the first inning for an early 4-0 lead. Dakota senior pitcher Kendahl Dunford, who got the complete-game win, knocked in the game's first two runs with a double to right field.
"I saw that the pitch was going outside and that is where I like them," said Dunford, who recorded her 102nd career win in the regional final. "I just tried to set my feet and made sure I hit it off the top of the bat and not the bottom."
Cougars juniors Jacqueline Popko and Arieanna Grammatico also drove in runs in the first inning.
Dakota seniors Julia Salisbury and Julia Sayles recorded RBIs in the second and third innings, respectively, to give their team an early 6-0 edge.
Cougars senior Kattie Popko smashed a double off of the center field wall to put her team up 7-0 and drive in the game's final run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Tars had their chances in the late stages of the game. Anchor Bay (24-16) had bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning and also had runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings but couldn't get a run across the plate.
"That's a good team. We've played them three times each in the last two years, so we know they can hit and they're used to seeing Kendahl," Fontaine said. "It was good to see our pitching and defense come through and make some plays."
Dakota downed Warren Cousino 16-1 in a regional semifinal.
Anchor Bay beat St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 1-0 to get to the regional final.