Close is not close enough for the Holton softball team anymore.

The Red Devils advanced to the state semifinals in both 2015 and 2017, only to lose each time. On Tuesday they punched their ticket to the semifinal round again with an impressive 6-1 victory over Portland St. Patrick in a state quarterfinal matchup at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.

Now they are out to prove that they can win in the semifinals and beyond, and deserve the No. 1 state ranking they’ve held all season.

Ryann Robins is congratulated by Coach Younts after belting a home run for Holton. Photo/Beth Olson

Holton will meet Rudyard on Friday at 10 a.m. in a semifinal game at Michigan State University. The winner will earn a berth in Saturday’s Division 4 state championship game at MSU.

“Today was our kids’ best effort so far,” said Holton Coach Kirk Younts, whose team is now 36-6. “They were diving for balls and leaving it all on the field. We’ve been trying to do this one game at a time, but I like our chances. They are playing some very good softball at the right time of the year.”

The Red Devils set the tone for the victory right away on Tuesday, when Ryann Robins hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Holton went on to add one run in the third inning, two in the fourth and one in the sixth.

Meanwhile, pitcher Kylie Gould and the Devil defense kept St. Patrick from doing much damage at all. Gould threw a complete game victory, striking out five with only one walk. She allowed a lot of soft contact, but her teammates were extra sharp with their gloves, with no errors in the contest.

“Our defense was flawless today,” Younts said. “That was the big bonus. We had a scouting report (on St. Patrick) and were ready for whatever they did.”

Holton piled up nine hits in the game, with Kendall Green leading the way with two doubles. Abbie Fowler and Maddie Bossett also had two hits apiece. The Red Devils only stuck out once in the game.