Bradford softball advances to Final Four with 1-0 win over Mechanicsburg


GREENVILLE — It was a no-win situation for Mechanicsburg softball in a showdown of the third and fourth ranked D-IV softball teams in Ohio in a regional final at Greenville Sunday afternoon.

Trailing 1-0 in the home seventh, they had speedster Addie DeLong on first base with two outs.

With Skipp Miller on the mound for Bradford, you are not going to score from first base.

But, running on Bradford catcher Austy Miller rarely ends well.

But, the Indians had to try something.

DeLong, who had 55 stolen bases on the season, took off for second base and Austy Miller threw a strike to shortstop Abby Fike, who tagged DeLong out to end the game and send Bradford back to Akron’s Firestone Stadium for the state semifinals Thursday.

Bradford, 29-2, will play New Riegel at 3 p.m.

Mechanicsburg closes the season at 23-5.

“I get it,” Skipp Miller said. “You have to move the runner, but I was surprised they did it with Austy (Miller) back there.”

Austy Miller, who had thrown DeLong out stealing third to end the first inning, eyes lit up when she saw DeLong take off.

“I was so excited,” she said. “She (Addie DeLong) is one of the top base stealers. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I did throw her out earlier.”

If anybody was nervous, it was Bradford shortstop Abby Fike.

“I was already cheating towards second because I knew she was going to steal,” Fike said. “I knew I had to get the tag on her. Austy (Miller) is automatic. Her throw is always right there where I can put the tag on. Getting the tag on is where I struggle sometimes.”

Not this time and Bradford is on its way to Akron.

“As soon as I tagged her, I just looked at Austy (Miller),” Fike said. “The two of us are really close.”

Shon Schaffer was not surprised by the ending.

“Austy (Miller) has a cannon,” he said. “She threw a strike down there.”

Now, the Miller sisters will play together in the state tournament for the first time.

“I was in eighth grade in 2018 (when Bradford played in the state tournament),” Austy Miller said. “This is so exciting.”

And it definitely has a different feel this year.

“I don’t think there were any expectations (in 2018),” Schaffer said. “We were just hoping to get there. There was a lot more pressure this year.”

Skipp Miller agreed.

“I think there is a lot more pressure this year,” she said. “It is my senior year.”

And Skipp Miller responded, shutting out a Mecahanicsburg team that had averaged 16 runs in the postseason and had not been shutout all season. Greenville held them to two runs early in the season, the Indians’ previous low output.

And as you might expect, the Indians didn’t make it easy.

Mechanicsburg put runners in scoring position in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings and went down in order just once.

“My defense bailed me out, that’s for sure,” Skipp Miller said.

Ironic, because a lot of people viewed that as a weakness with all the strikeouts Skipp Miller has as she nears the 400 strikeout mark.

“That is the one knock people have had on us,” Schaffer said. “The defense played great today.”

In the first, Mechanicsburg had runners on first and second with two out when DeLong was thrown out attempting to steal third.

In the first, they had first and second with one out when two fly balls ended the inning.

In the fifth, they had first and second with two out when Fike bobbled a ball at shortstop.

First baseman Nylani Beireis saw the runner take off for third as the throw was coming to her at first.

She had the presence of mind to come off the bag and throw a strike to Maggie Manuel at third to end the inning.

“I figured if we were going to get the out at first, hopefully I could get the girl at third,” she said. “Fortunately, I did.”

It wasn’t by accident.

“We work on plays like that all the time,” Schaffer said.

In the sixth, Hanna DeLong hit one to the leftfield fence, but only made it to first.

Jasalyn Sartin turned a misjudged fly ball into a double, setting up the two most important bats of the game with Bradford clinging to a 1-0 lead and runners on second and third with one out.

Skipp Miller got a ground ball back to her a strikeout to end the threat.

“I do have a different mindset when runners are in scoring position,” Skipp Miller said. “I get really focused.”

Schaffer described it a different way.

“I think she gets mad,” he said with a laugh. “It is like she is angry out there.”

Miller finished with a six-hitter, striking out eight, walking two and hitting a batter.

At the same, Mecahnicsburg’s Daytayvia Rodgers was giving the Railroaders nothing.

She allowed just two hits, striking out nine.

But, both Bradford hits came in the fourth inning and that was the Railroaders needed.

Austy Miller led off with a single and stole second,

With one out, Skipp Miller hit a rocket up the middle.

“I was thinking that was hit really hard and I didn’t know if Austy (Miller) could score,” Schaffer said. “She came chugging into third and I decided to go for it.”

Miller only has one mindset on the bases and stopping at third isn’t it.

“I was scoring,” she said. “To be honest, I never saw where the ball was, I was just running full speed. If I was going to make an out, at least I was doing it trying to score.”

And Skipp Miller knows her sister well enough to know she wasn’t stopping at third.

“You have to chase it (try to score),” she said with a laugh.

And while Skipp Miller will tell you she is not happy with her hitting, she was clutch when it counted — just like on the mound.

“She got the big hit when we needed it,” Schaffer said. “Some games are like this. In the district final, we left double-digit girls on. Today, we only had two hits. That’s the way it works sometimes.”

And the matchup up fans have been waiting for four two years — with Mechanicsburg ranked third in the state and Bradford fourth, it lived up to the hype — and then some.

“We were the underdog going into this game,” Skipp Miller said. “At least, that’s the way it felt.”

Before the Railroaders put Mechanicsburg in a no-win situation to earn a second trip to Akron for the Final Four.

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