GREENVILLE — The Bradford Railroaders rode the arm of freshman fireballer Skipp Miller and chugged past the Panthers of Tri-County North 8-2 on Tuesday in an Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional championship softball game.
The win at Greenville’s Stebbins Field complex improved the Railroaders to 20-3 overall this season and gives a chance to play for the district title at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mason against Cincinnati Christian.
The win also extracts some revenge as Tri-County North beat Shon Shaffer’s Railroaders 2-0 earlier in the season to give Bradford one of its two league losses. Their only other defeats came at the hands of Division II Graham and Cross County Conference champion,Newton.
Miller provided the fire with 16 strikeouts and the power with three straight doubles for two RBIs to help her own cause against the tamed Panthers.
First inning firings show Bradford, who was seeded third in the tourney, coming to bat first and plating two runs to ignite its crowd. Chelsea Gill started things off with a single, followed by Emma Canan who got another base knock to put two ducks on the pond.. Miller then knocked the two Railroaders around home with a double to give Coach Shaffer a quick 2-0 lead.
The next three batters all flew out to keep the damage intact in this initial frame.
Tri-County North also came into this contest with an identical 19-3 record and the same second place league tie with Bradford and Arcanum.
Leadoff hitter Sidney Jackson ripped a two-bagger to start things off well for the second-seeded Panthers. However, Jackson was stranded as Miller struck out the next two and caused the other Panther to ground out.
The third inning was the next scoring frame as Bradford’s brilliant nine plated two more to ratchet the score up to 4-0. Miller hit her second double of the game and skipped merrily home on a two-run blast by Bianca Keener.
Tri-County North was not about to be fenced in by the mammoth blast and respond with its only two runs in the bottom of the frame. Amazingly enough the Panthers got their two runs on only one hit as Lexi Delong raked a double with one out. Delong and Jackson crossed home plate via a player plunked and an infield throwing error. Even more surprising was the fact that Miller struck out the side in giving up her two unearned runs of the night.
The fourth inning fireworks were all ignited by the visiting Railroaders as they ran away with the game by plating four runs. Buzz Brewer started things buzzing by blasting a single to left. However, on the next pitch she was doubled up by the alert Panthers infield much to the delight of the Lewisburg legion of fans.
The final out did not come until four batters had crossed the plate to end the scoring campaign for both squads. Gill walked, Canan conked a single, and Miller mashed her third straight double. Bailey Wysong then whistled a double, and Keener reached on a infield error.
The inning mercifully ended for the pounced-on Panthers with a ground out to shortstop. The Panthers were caged with a six-run deficit with only nine outs to go against one of the top hurlers in the state.
The last three frames went quickly for the Panthers, who had no answers for the offerings made by Miller. The Panthers got one hit by Taylor Green in the fifth, but the sixth was a wash with three up and three down via the strikeout route
The final frame saw the Panthers paw at the ball and go meekly with three straight outs ending the game on a pop up to third. Bradford’s last three frames consisted of hits by Brewer, Canan and Wysong but not enough to dent the scoreboard.
“Skipp had a heck of a game as she is big and strong and was hitting her spots tonight. Skipp works really well with our catcher, Elisa Martinez, as they are quite a tandem to have out there. I also want to mention how well we hit tonight, which caused North to go thru several pitchers,” Shaffer said. “I also was very happy for Keener whose only hit for the night was a two-run blast that helped change the game around for us. I suspect we will face Felicity Franklin whom we have scouted well, but to get out of this sectional is a blessing. North perhaps had their best team in many, many years, and we were fortunate enough to knock them off in this two-hour marathon.”