GRASS LAKE, Mich. - Summerfield sophomore ace Jordan Ratliff fell just three outs short of pitching a perfect game and completely shutting down North Muskegon in a Division 4 state quarterfinal yesterday.
Ratliff set the side down in order in each of the first six innings before she gave up a solid single in the seventh. The young right-hander struck out five and did not walk a batter to lead the Bulldogs to a convincing 6-1 victory over the Norsemen.
"My adrenaline was pumping, and I was feeling very confident," Ratliff said. "As the game went on, I got stronger."
Senior second baseman Britteny Faunce had two of Summerfield's five hits and drove in two runs as the Bulldogs advanced to the state final four for the second consecutive year. Ratliff was backed by a sound defense that did not commit an error.
Summerfield (33-5) advances to face Frankfort (37-5) in the D4 state semifinal at Battle Creek on Friday. The Bulldogs reached the state final last year before falling to Allen Park Cabrini 2-0.
Ratliff confidently mowed down the North Muskegon lineup coaxing grounders and pop outs.
"She throws like that every time out," Summerfield coach Robert Taylor said. "She stays ahead of batters and rarely walks anyone. The farther into the game, the better she gets."
But as she continued to hurl the perfect game none of the players brought it up.
"I'm superstitious," Ratliff said. "We didn't talk about it because it might not happen then."
Taylor said he was chastised when he mentioned it to some of the players late in the quickly played contest.
"I think I jinxed it," Taylor said. "I brought it up in the sixth. I wasn't sure if the girls on the bench realized what they were seeing. So I said, 'We have four more outs, do you realize what is going on here?' Maybe that was too much. But the win was more important."
Summerfield grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Faunce walked, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball, and then scored on a wild pitch.
The Bulldogs added four more in the fourth including Faunce's well struck RBI single over the third baseman's head that made it 3-0.
"Brittany was so happy and free spirited before the game, I thought she'd have a great day," Taylor said. "She's capable of doing that."
Sophomore Annalise Latting and senior Chelsea Manley then came up with back-to-back RBI sacrifice bunts to give the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead. Faunce added to the cushion with another RBI single in the fifth.
Ratliff said the defense also was pivotal in her bid for the no-hitter. Right fielder Amber Moore made a running catch in the third, and third baseman Heather Carlson fielded a tough grounder to end the inning.
"My defense was awesome," said Ratliff, who earned her 31st victory. "I knew they would be there to get outs."
Stephanie Scheidt led off the seventh and broke up the bid with a sharp single to right field.
"Give the girl credit," Ratliff said. "But we got the win. That's all that matters. I'm very excited."
"I'm excited as can be and so are the girls," Taylor said. "The community is so small and so close and the softball program is really the only thing they've had to cheer about lately."
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