BATTLE CREEK, Mich -- Summerfield's offense was held in check for five innings before turning things around and pulling out a 7-3 win over Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in nine innings in the Michigan Division 4 state semifinal at Bailey Park.
With the win, the Bulldogs return to the state championship game for the third time in as many years.
Summerfield scored five runs in the ninth inning, capped off by a Brittni Collins triple that scored Sydney Spalding, Olivia Ostrosky, and Shelby Bruckner.
Sacred Heart pitcher Kelsey Poag held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for much of the game, at one point retiring nine batters in a row.
"I think everybody was too wired," said Summerfield first baseman Kysha LaMonde. "We didn't show up ready right away. That came later on."
Summerfield got on the board with a pair of runs in the sixth as Collins and Taylor Goodin hit back-to-back-to back triples, and LaMonde followed that with a single up the middle to score Goodin.
Summerfield coach Robert Taylor leaned on his upperclassmen to pull the team out of the offensive slump.
"It wasn't anything that I said, it was all them," Taylor said. "I could hear the seniors, I could hear the upperclassmen pulling them together, rallying them together and telling them that if we don't get it together, we're going to lose here."
The Bulldogs were hurt by five errors, two of them leading to an unearned Fighting Irish run in the third. But pitcher Emily Puterbaugh worked her way out of jams over and over, stranding nine Sacred Heart runners on base.
"That is very unlike us," Taylor said of his team's fielding woes. "Fortunately, she's got the maturity and experience to pitch through that. I don't know in the three years she's been our starting pitcher I've ever seen her rattled. She pitched through a lot today."
Puterbaugh allowed the lead-off hitter to reach in each of the first two innings before recording three straight outs to work out of the jam. In the third, the Irish had two on and two out before Puterbaugh struck out Erica Hansen to end the threat. Sacred Heart again had two on in the sixth before another Puterbaugh strikeout ended that inning.
"I just had to take deep breaths, and I kept praying," she said. "I just knew that my defense would come through for me."
Puterbaugh also helped her own cause with a double in the ninth, scoring courtesy runner Jenna Boss to put Summerfield ahead. Up until that hit, Puterbaugh was 0-for-3 at the plate on the day.
"I was swinging way too hard in the first at-bats," she said. "I just took a deep breath and swung easy. It just went, and it felt awesome."
The Bulldogs also got defensive help from catcher Taylor Goodin, who caught seven pop-ups either in foul territory or in front of the plate.
Summerfield will go for the three-peat against Dansville. The Aggies (30-5) are making their first trip to the state finals.