BRADFORD — The Lady Railroaders hit the ball well and took advantage of the opportunities the Lady Hawks gave them in a 14-3 Bradford victory against Mississinawa Valley in an Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament game on Tuesday.
After a scoreless first inning, the Bradford softball team started hitting the ball very well and scored runs in each of the next three innings as the Railroaders won their sectional tournament opener in run rule fashion.
“I was really proud of them. They came out hard and fast, and that’s two words I’ve been preaching the entire season,” Bradford coach Shon Shaffer said. “One thing that this team probably lacks on is the consistent offensive production. I’m glad that the feeling in the dugout and at the plate was good tonight. It gives us a little bit of momentum instead of just eking by and looking into the next game we have some good momentum going.”
Bradford had one hit in the first inning off the bat of Erika Hart, but it wasn’t until the second inning that the Railroaders really started to get going.
The Bradford rally almost didn’t happen as Mississinawa Valley starting pitcher Spencer Warren set down the first two Lady Railroader batters in the second inning.
But things got going with a two-out single from Brooke Dunlevy, which was followed by back-to-back walks to Tori Smith and Jayde Mead to load the bases. Ciara Broughman then ripped a two-run single into left field for a 2-0 Bradford lead.
“They did a real nice job,” Shaffer said. “Took a couple innings to find the timing to really start making good contact, but they did a nice job and stayed focused with two outs and didn’t give up on the inning and ended up scoring a lot of runs.”
After Haley Patty was hit by a pitch to load the bases again, Erika Hart hit a two-run double to left to increase the lead to 4-0. That immediately was followed by a two-run double from Brooke Brower, making it 6-0 and prompting Mississinawa Valley coach Jeff Adams to bring Lexi Reynolds in to pitch.
After a walk to Mindy Brewer and an infield single by Olivia Hart loaded the bases, Dunlevy grounded a ball through a fielder’s legs to drive in three more runs for a 9-0 Bradford lead.
“You can’t take nothing away from Bradford,” Adams said. “They hit the ball well when they needed to. When you make a couple mistakes here and there while they’re hitting, that’s what happens.”
Mississinawa Valley, which had stranded two runners in the second inning after a single from Stephanie Scholl and a walk to Cydney Adams with no outs, got some runs on the scoreboard in the third inning.
Reynolds led off the inning with a single. Mackenzie Dirmeyer then drove a one-out single into the outfield, and it slipped by the Bradford fielder to allow both runners to move into scoring position.
Then a throwing error on a Nicole Scholl grounder allowed both runners to score, cutting Mississinawa Valley’s deficit to 9-2. Scholl ended up scoring three batters later with a single from Kasey Hummel, making the score 9-3.
“One thing for sure about this team, they never quit and they never give up,” coach Adams said.
Bradford quickly regained momentum in the bottom half of the third inning.
Broughman led off with a single and took second and third on a pair of wild pitches. She then scored on a single by Patty, making it 10-3.
After Patty stole second and moved to third on a bunt by Erika Hart, Brower laid down a bunt single and then took second base uncontested to give Bradford a pair of runners in scoring position. Patty scored on a wild pitch, and Brower scored on a single by Olivia Hart to make it 12-3 in favor of Bradford. Olivia Hart then stole second and scored as a grounder by Dunlevy was misplayed, making it 13-3 Bradford.
The Railroaders added one more run in the fourth inning. Patty got a one-out single, and her courtesy runner, Kylie Miller, stole second. A bunt single by Erika Hart and a sacrifice bunt by Brower then allowed Miller to score for a 14-3 lead.
In the top of the fifth Patty struck out a pair of batters, her fifth and sixth strikeouts of the game, and Bradford capped off the 14-3 win in a five-inning run rule.
“Haley as you can see gets stronger the more she pitches,” Shaffer said. “Though she looked good in the first part of the game, she gets stronger as she goes. She was throwing darts there at the end.”
With Tuesday’s sectional tournament win, Bradford advances to play host to Tri-Village, who beat Riverside 6-1 in a tournament game on Tuesday, at 5 p.m. Thursday in Bradford. Bradford won the team’s regular season match up 12-7 on April 24.
“The girls are already talking about it in the huddle,” Shaffer said. “They’re ready to go.”
The loss ended Mississinawa Valley’s tournament play and the coaching career of Adams.
“It’s actually my last game I’m going to coach for these ladies,” coach Adams said, trying to suppress his emotions. “Leaving a great group of girls. It’s because of my choice, with my job and everything. I hate to leave these group of girls. They’re great kids, and they’re going to do great next season.”
Mississinawa Valley had just one senior this season, Nicole Scholl. She will be missed by the program, coach Adams said, but the team has a bright future.
“She’s probably one of the top girls we’ve had in a long time in softball,” coach Adams said. “They’re definitely going to miss her with her speed, her bat, great first baseman. I mean that girl can stretch a mile for you if she needs to. She’s definitely going to be missed, but these girls that’s coming up for next year, freshmen and stuff, they shouldn’t miss a beat.”