Bradford doesn’t ‘Skipp’ beat, defeating Fayetteville-Perry 9-0 in a D-IV district final Saturday at the Market Street diamond in Troy


TROY — Skipp is back.

And so is the Bradford softball team.

The Railroaders defeated Fayetteville-Perry 9-0 Saturday in a D-IV district final to return to the regional tournament for the first time since Skipp Miller’s freshman season in 2018.

The pitching phenom missed 2019 with a knee injury and softball was not played last spring.

“It seems like it is long overdue,” Bradford coach Shon Schaffer said. “It seems like a different team (than 2018). Well, it is a different team butt is hard to believe these seniors were freshman on that team.”

Miller just added to an amazing season Saturday as Bradford improved to 26-2 and will play Lincolnview in the Greenville regional at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

She threw her 11th no-hitter of the season, including two perfect games. She also had thrown nine one-hitters and has 344 strikeouts, against 29 walks and 13 hit batters.

Miller has yet to give up a run in the postseason, allowing just one hit in three games while striking out 37.

“Honestly, I haven’t kept track how many no-hitters I have thrown,” Miller said. “The goal is just to get every batter out.”

But, ask Miller about heading back to regionals and a big smile comes across her face.

“After missing two seasons, it feels great,” she said.

She found her rhythm in the second inning Saturday.

In the first inning, the Rockets had two infield ground outs.

Miller would then strikeout 10 of the next 13 Fayetteville batters and Bradford’s outfielders never saw the ball the entire game.

She finished with 13 strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter.

“I could tell Skipp (Miller) was a little nervous in the first inning,” Schaffer said. “But, once she works a sweat up, look out.”

Miller said with was a typical start for her.

“I probably don’t warm up as much as I should,” she said. “It usually takes me to about the second inning.”

And, not that she needed it, Miller had a couple web gems to help her out.

The first Fayetteville batter hit a ground ball near second base.

Railroader second baseman Emma Canan fielded the ball with her back to first, turned and threw the runner out to set the tone.

“That was huge, no question about it,” Schaffer said. “Emma (Canan) has been real solid for us all year.”

In the fifth inning, a one-out strikeout turned into a double play when catcher Austy Miller threw a strike to Nylani Beireis at first to pick a Fayetteville runner off base.

“Austy (Miller) has a rocket for an arm,” Schaffer said. “Austy and Nylani (Beireis) do a great job reading each other and understanding when a runner has wandered a little too far off the base.”

And while Bradford scored five runs in its last two at bats, it was small ball and the weapon of Abby Fike bunting that helped lead to a 4-0 lead early.

Austy Miller led off the third with a triple and scored on a Fike bunt, with Fike being retired at first base.

Alexis Barhorst would score a second run when Rylee Canan was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

In the fourth, Izzy Hamilton walked and when Austy Miller’s single was misplayed, Hamilton scored and Miller ended up on third base.

Fike put down a perfect bunt and Miller was almost home before Fayetteville even picked the ball up.

“Abby (Fike) is a really good bunter and those plays were huge,” Schaffer said.

And Fike loves playing that role.

“Bunting is absolutely my favorite thing,” she said. “That’s what coach told me, you are batting second because you can bunt. Austy (Miller) gets on and I bunt.”

While Bradford had all the runs it would need with a 4-0 lead, the Railroaders left the bases loaded in three of the first four innings.

In the fourth, Skipp Miller followed Fike with a double and Beireis walked to load the bases with no outs, before the next three batters struck out.

“You look at it, we had 11 hits and nine runs,” Schaffer said. “But, it was one of the most frustrating games from a batting standpoint. It seemed like we left 12 runners on base and it was probably more.”

It was exactly 12.

But, Emma Canan had a two-run double in the sixth inning and in the seventh inning, Hamilton had a RBI double, Fike had a RBI single and Manuel had a bases-loaded walk for the final tally 9-0.

“It does relax me when we get a lead,” Miller said. “I don’t have to be perfect. You don’t ever want to make a mistake, but you don’t have to be perfect.”

Schaffer said this is a very different team than 2018.

“There were no expectations in 2018,” he said. “We were just trying to get to the regional tournament. This year, the expectations are so much higher. There is so much pressure.”

And now “Skipp” and the Railroaders are back — looking to match 2018’s success at the regional.

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