By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CASSTOWN — The Bradford softball team survived an off day to continue its hot start.
Miami East’s baseball team got a stellar start from a sophomore pitcher and did enough little things to win.
In the end, it was a split between the two schools as the Railroader softball team improved to 3-0 after a 6-4 victory over the Vikings, while Miami East’s Tyler Kirby came one seventh-inning dropped fly ball away from a shutout in a 6-1 win over the Bradford baseball team in Cross County Conference play Tuesday at Miami East High School.
For Bradford’s softball team, the pressure is high to perform this season after a historic year last year that saw the Railroaders reach the state tournament.
“Absolutely,” Bradford softball coach Shon Schaffer said. “I told the girls everyone is gunning for us, so we’ve got to be at the top of our game every game.”
Tuesday was not one of those days, though, as Bradford (3-0, 1-0 CCC) committed an uncharacteristic four errors and allowed three unearned runs in the game as Miami East (0-1, 0-1 CCC) remained within one run at 3-2 after three innings. A three-run top of the fourth by the Railroaders, though, gave them enough of a cushion to hang on as they capitalized on five Viking errors themselves.
“We didn’t play well in any aspect today, but we came out with the ‘W,’” Schaffer said. “(Pitcher) Nylani (Birice) got it done when she had to. This wasn’t her best game by far and she knows that, but we worked through it.
“The girls stayed focused and got the job done. We played some smallball and made them throw the ball around, and the girls executed. That was nice to see.”
Birice went the distance on the mound, giving up only three hits and one earned run and striking out two but giving up six walks, as well as hitting a double at the plate. Elisa Martinez was 2 for 2 with an RBI, Austy Miller was 2 for 4 with a run scored and Macie Reck drove in two runs to lead the Bradford offense.
Miami East, meanwhile, had its chances, particularly in the seventh inning. Sam Urban drew a leadoff walk and Kyleigh Kirby walked with one out to put the potential tying runs on base, but Birice got a popout and groundout to close out the game.
“We are this close to where we need to be,” Miami East softball coach Brian Kadel said, putting his fingers a pinch apart. “A lot is back from that state team last year, they’re a good team, they’re well coached, they hit the ball well and they made plays. But we’re moving in the right direction.”
Kirby went the distance for the Vikings on the mound, striking out four and walking three while giving up eight hits and six runs — only three of which were earned.
“Kyleigh is a freshman, but she’s a good pitcher. She’s pitched in a bunch of big games,” Kadel said. “Defensively, we gave away some runs. Twice we fielded the ball and girls were halfway down the line at third — if we turn, we can get that runner. We have to be able to take advantage when people give us opportunities to get lead runners, but we’re not quite there yet.
“Our infield is one sophomore and everyone else freshmen, and hopefully they learned some things tonight and got some experience to calm those nerves.”
Offensively, Abigail Covault was 1 for 3 with an RBI, Kalli Teeters doubled and Paige Lawson drove in a run.
Miami East travels to Springfield Shawnee Wednesday, while Bradford takes on National Trail Thursday.
And in the baseball game, Miami East starter Tyler Kirby was in control from start to finish, scattering five hits, walking none and not giving up an earned run while striking out eight.
“Tyler pitched real well,” Miami East baseball coach Dean Denlinger said. “He threw well, had good command of his pitches, his slider and curveball were working well and his fastball was alive, jumping out of his hand. And he showed good composure for a sophomore.”
Bradford (0-3, 0-1 CCC) had a chance to get back into the game in the top of the sixth inning. Trailing 4-0, the Railroaders loaded the bases with only one out against Kirby — but the sophomore buckled down and got a swinging strikeout on a full count for the second out of the inning, then he induced a meek popout to the right side to get out of the jam unscathed.
From there, Jonah Wolf hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to give the Vikings (1-1, 1-0 CCC) a six-run lead, plenty for Kirby to work with in the seventh.
Offensively for Miami East, Andy Wargo was 2 for 3 with an RBI, A. Francis was 2 for 4, G. Butz was 2 for 2, Wolf had a double and two RBIs and Dave Osting drove in a run.
“We played a little smallball, but we also failed to execute a couple of times,” Denlinger said. “Had a couple of bunt-and-runs and a couple squeeze plays on that we missed. But we put the ball in play — and that nice hit by Jonah Wolf hitting a shot in the gap helped.”
For Bradford, Fischer Spencer was 3 for 3 and Hunter Gheen scored the lone run on an error in the top of the seventh. Starting pitcher Larkin Painter took the loss, giving up six runs — three earned — on six hits and four walks while striking out three in five innings of work.
Miami East faces Ben Logan Wednesday, while Bradford
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.