BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Junior ace Emily Puterbaugh fired a three-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, and junior catcher Taylor Goodin provided the winning runs with a two-run home run in the fourth inning Friday as Summerfield High School defeated Breckenridge 6-0 in a Michigan Division 4 state softball semifinal at Bailey Park.
The win gives the Bulldogs (28-6) a chance to defend their state championship Saturday against 2009 D-4 champion Unionville-Sebewaing, which topped Rapid River 12-0 in Friday’s other semifinal.
Summerfield will face the Patriots (37-5) for the title in Battle Creek on Saturday at 10 a.m. Unionville-Sebewaing also won D-3 state titles in 2006 and 2007.
“It’s harder to stay on top than it is to get to the top,” veteran Summerfield head coach Robert Taylor said. “That’s where we are right now. These girls know that they can’t let down. They’ve got to work hard to regain the championship.”
Scoreless entering the top of the fourth inning, Summerfield’s junior first baseman, Ellen Gregory, who was stranded after her second-inning double, reached second again when her fly ball was dropped by Huskies center fielder Kayla Johnson.
One pitch later, Goodin slammed her sixth homer of the season, easily clearing the 205-foot fence in left field for a 2-0 lead.
“We had a runner in scoring position, so I just wanted to get a base hit, put it in play, and try to score the run,” Goodin said. “It was a fastball low and inside.
“I was rounding first and I saw a guy out there [beyond the fence] catch it. That felt really nice because I knew Emily always does a great job. Even if runners do get on base, she doesn’t let them get very far.”
That was all the support Puterbaugh would need to run her season record to 28-6. The right-hander breezed through the first five innings by recording 13 of the 15 outs on strikeouts. She fanned each Breckenridge batter at least once in the game.
The Huskies (34-4) had just four batters reach base in the game, and none got past first base. Losing pitcher Breu Olling drew a first-inning walk, leadoff hitter Johnson had infield singles in the third and sixth innings, and Kirsten Case opened the Huskies’ seventh with a single to left.
“On Taylor’s home run I was like, ‘Get out, get out,’ “ said Puterbaugh, who threw 68 of her 86 pitches for strikes. “Then I saw the guy catch going back to catch it, and I was like, ‘Yes. Now I have a lead to work with so I just need to throw the ball.’
“I feel like there’s extra pressure on us because people are expecting us to repeat. So, we have to relax and put that all aside, and think of [Saturday’s final] as just another game that we have to go out there and win.”
Puterbaugh, who had 17 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in last year’s 2-1 victory over Onaway in the D-4 championship game, also benefited from her team’s errorless defense in getting back to the final. The Huskies had three errors, which led to five unearned runs for Summerfield.
The Bulldogs gave Puterbaugh four insurance runs on four hits in the seventh inning, with all four runs scoring after two were out.
Senior pinch-hitter Masako Inoue singled to right to drive home senior second baseman Alix Jaeger with the first of those runs. Jaeger had singled with one out to spark the rally.
Two more came home on a throwing error by Huskie third baseman Rebecca Gulliver, and Summerfield sophomore shortstop Olivia Ostroky knocked in the final run with a single to left.
The Bulldogs’ sophomore center fielder, Shelby Bruckner, also singled and scored during the rally.
“The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins, and that was us today,” said Taylor, who is 453-153 in 19 seasons guiding Summerfield. “When Emily Puterbaugh is pitching, we know we can be in the ballgame. We work hard on our offense, but we rely on pitching and defense.”