By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Macomb Dakota’s first trip to an MHSAA Softball Final in 2016 ended with a shutout loss to a powerhouse Farmington Hills Mercy team that has gained much from a Semifinals trip the season before.
A year later in 2017, a more experienced Cougars team also put itself in position to return to the season’s final day – and capitalize on any opportunity that might await.
That opportunity came in the bottom of the eighth inning, as senior Kattie Popko scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch to carry Dakota past Grandville 4-3 and clinch the Cougars’ first Finals championship on the softball diamond.
Popko finished 2-for-4 and had scored two more runs before reaching base in the eighth inning on an error. She moved to third base on a pair of singles, and raced home for the winning run when a two-out, two-strike pitch sailed high and to the net behind the plate.
“We always depend on each other and we always, always, always never give up; that’s something that helped us win today,’’ said Popko that afternoon.
“Last year we knew it was going to be tough going into the state championship game. Farmington Hills Mercy blew their way through the tournament. This year we knew we had to forget about last year. We knew it was going to be even harder this year to make it here. We had to have confidence in ourselves and trust the training we’ve been through.’’
Popko has continued her career at Madonna.
Click for coverage of the Dakota win from Second Half and watch Popko’s winning run below from the NFHS Network.