Bradford softball plays Strasburg-Franklin at 10 a.m. Friday in D-IV state semifinals

BRADFORD — The Bradford softball team is back.

After winning the D-IV state title a year ago, the Railroaders have an opportunity to defend that state title this weekend in the Final Four at Akron Firestone Stadium.

Bradford, 23-5 and ranked fifth in the final D-IV state poll, knocked off top-ranked Russia 3-1 in the regional final last Saturday.

Now, the Railroaders get a shot at Strasburg-Franklin, 27-4 and ranked second in the final state poll, at 10 a.m. Friday.

The Tigers are making their 17th trip to the Final Four, having won seven state titles — the most recent being in 2013.

Strasburg-Franklin tuned up for Friday’s game by playing Miami East’s opponent in the D-III state semifinals Massillon Tuslaw Wednesday and winning 5-4.

JaeLynn Marks had a double and the game-winning suicide squeeze in the seventh inning.

Emma Gilkerson hit her 39th career home run in the game and had two RBIs, Amanda Spidell had a double and Maggie Richards had a RBI.

Richards and Gilkerson are both batting over .500 for the season and Gilkerson is in double digits in home runs and double, with more than 30 RBIs.

Marks, Richards and Sydney Sibilia all have more than 20 RBIs.

Spidell has a 1.85 ERA on the mound.

Bradford won the initial WOAC conference with an 11-0 record.

Nylani Beireis has been outstanding in filling the big shoes left by All-Ohio pitcher Skipp Miller for Bradford.

Beireis has a 23-4 record and a 2.27 ERA. She has 74 strikeouts in 138 and two-thirds innings.

She has also helped herself at the plate with a .480 batting average.

She has 10 home runs, 11 doubles, two triples and 42 RBIs.

All-Ohio shortstop Austy Miller leads the Lady Railroaders with a .577 batting average.

She has nine home runs, 12 doubles, 10 triples, 28 stolen bases and 37 RBIs.

Third baseman Abby Fike hit two home runs in the district final and one in the regional semifinal.

She is batting .402 with seven doubles, two triples and 23 RBIs.

Second baseman Izzy Hamilton is batting .404 with eight doubles and 17 RBIs and centerfielder Rylee Canan is batting .402 with 15 doubles and 30 RBIs.

First baseman Remi Harleman has eight home runs and 40 RBIs for the Railroaders and rightfielder Zoe Brewer has 22 RBIs.