By Rob Kiser
GREENVILLE — Bradford softball coach Shon Schaffer admits he had Saturday’s Division IV regional final all wrong.
And he couldn’t be happier about that.
Bradford made history with a 12-1 romp over Parkway in six innings at Lady Wave Softball Stadium to advance to the state softball tournament for the first time.
Bradford, 23-3 and ranked 10th in the state, will play the Hillsdale-Mohawk winner at 10 a.m. Friday in Akron. Parkway, ranked third in the state, closes the season at 21-5.
“All week long the coach (himself) told the kids this was going to be a 2-1 or 3-1 game,” Schaffer said. “The kids were telling me in the dugout, ‘You were wrong.’ And I was. It was unbelievable the way we hit the ball today.”
Every Bradford batter had at least one hit as the Railroaders outhit a Parkway team that run-ruled Newton Wednesday 12-2. The Panthers came in averaging 11 hits a game.
“We lost to Newton during the season,” Bradford freshman pitching sensation Skipp Miller said. “And Parkway run-ruled Newton. And now, we run-ruled them — that’s just crazy.”
And the Railroaders dream season continues.
“I never imagined we would be going to Akron,” said Miller. “I thought we would have a good season. This is unbelievable.”
And both teams knew getting on the board first would be critical.
And while Bradford easily could have scored four runs in the third inning, the two they scored would be enough with Miller on the mound.
Emma Canan singled and with one out, circled the bases when Miller hit a long single into the left-center field gap.
It was her second straight single to right field.
“Honestly, I was just trying to put the ball in play,” she said.
Schaffer thought that might be enough.
“I was thinking it might be a 1-0 game,” he said.
Not for long.
After pinch-runner Aspen Weldy was caught between third and home on Bailey Wysong’s fielder’s choice, Bianca Keener drilled a double the opposite way to make it 2-0.
“I don’t know what that was about,” Keener said. “I never hit the ball to right field.”
And that inning was exactly what Parkway coach Mark Esselstein didn’t want to happen.
“I thought if we could score first — with Bradford having four freshman starting — that would put a lot of pressure on them,” he said. “But we weren’t able to do that.”
Then came the pivotal at bat of the game one inning later.
With Chelsea Gill on third and Emma Canan on second with two outs, Esselstein elected to intentionally walk Miller.
“It was the right move,” Esselstein said. “But you have to get the next batter.”
As Wysong strode to the plate, her brother Brandon heard a fan near him say that it was a smart move to walk Miller.
“No, it is not,” he said. “They just made the wrong girl angry.”
Moments later, his sister made him a prophet, sending the ball over the left field fence for a grand slam to make it 6-0.
“I just knew I had to do something,” Wysong said. “I wasn’t looking for a particular pitch. I was just up there swinging. I was just trying to get something in play.”
Miller was watching from the dugout after Weldy ran for her.
“Payback, karma,” she said with a smile. “That was huge to have six runs.”
“I am so happy for Bailey Wysong,” Schaffer said. “She works so hard. Skipp (Miler) has won games with four runs all year. A six-run lead was huge.”
It continued a trend as eight of Bradford’s 12 runs came after two were out. For the game, the Lady Railroaders were 8-for-15 with two outs.
“That was the difference in the game,” Esselstein said. “They were unbelievable the way they hit the ball with two outs.”
Parkway pitched Haley Hawk hit a solo homer in the home fourth — when the Panthers got their only two hits of the game.
But Bradford scored three runs in the fifth and sixth to end the game early.
In the fifth, Hawk retired the first two batters.
Buzz Brewer singled and Hannah Fout reached on an error.
Gill had a RBI single and Canan followed with a two-run single.
In the sixth, two errors and an infield single by Elisa Martinez loaded the bases for freshman Maggie Manuel.
She drilled a three-run double to complete the Railroader scoring.
“Early in the season, I told the girls they are like and engine without the clutch,” Schaffer said. “Today, they were just unbelievable. These girls have worked hard an I can’t say enough about the way they hit the ball.”
Miller finished with five strikeouts and two walks.
“Skipp (Miller) is a tough pitcher,” Esselstein said. “She didn’t get her normally 15 strikeouts, but their defense made plays. Our kids kept battling. It is not easy to make it to the regional finals. We had a great season, but I told the girls, ‘the farther you go, the more it hurts’.”
Now, Schaffer and the Railroaders go where no Bradford softball team has been before.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought we would go along way,” he said. “But the farther you get, the more pressure there is. I thought at some point, there would be a game we didn’t win.”
And no one is happier than him that he was wrong.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.