By Rob Kiser
PLEASANT HILL — It was the classic softball match.
The Cross Country Conference’s best pitcher in Bradford freshman Skipp Miller against the conference’s best hitting team in Newton.
And with big CCC title implications — as Bradford came in as the only unbeaten team in the conference.
And neither disappointed — but Newton was able to score two runs in the fourth inning and that was the difference in a 2-0 victory.
It now leaves Bradford, Newton, Covington and Arcanum all with one loss in the conference.
“Right back where we were last year,” Newton coach Mark Gibson said with a smile about last year’s title being shared by four teams. “We already had a loss coming into this game, so we had to win this one. I would like to think we are (the best hitting team in the CCC) and Skipp (Miller) is a great pitcher who is only going to get better. She does a great job out there.”
Bradford was taking the field for the first time since Miller’s 19 strikeout performance against Versailles — and since the first Division IV state poll that had Bradford ranked third came out, understandably creating excitement with coach Shon Shaffer’s team.
“But, I told the girls — I don’t care about those things,” Shaffer said. “What matters is what happens on the dirt (diamond).”
And both Miller and Newton’s Kristen Rappold made it clear — runs were going to be a premium in this game.
Miller had a double in the first — one of just four hits off Rappold, who had six strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
“That is the best game Kristen (Rappold) has thrown all year,” Gibson said. “She was mixing things up and throwing all her pitches for strikes. We had Erin Norman ready, but we didn’t need her.”
And Miller pitched a five-hitter, striking out eight and walking one.
“Skipp (Miller) has played a lot of softball,” Shaffer said. “She is a good one.”
Only two web gems by Bradford kept Newton off the board in the third.
Kara Chaney singled to start the inning. When the throw got away on Ashlyn Deeter’s bunt, Chaney tried to score. But, Miller hustled home to cover the plate and second baseman Emma Canan threw a strike to her to get the out.
“Skipp (Miller) is a game,” Shaffer said. “She will make plays out there.”
After a sacrifice bunt by Baily Chaney, Ashlyn Deeter tried to score on a wild pitch. Elisa Martinez got the ball quickly and again, Miller covered the plate and made the tag to end the inning.
“That was a great flip by Elisa (Martinez),” Shaffer said. “She is the best we have at that.”
Gibson didn’t regret trying to get on the board.
“I may not agree with everything that happened that inning, but I believe if you stay aggressive, you will score,” Gibson said.
Newton broke through in the next inning.
Kacie Tackett started the inning with a walk and Marissa Deeter ran for her.
After a sacrifice bunt by Kylee Fisher, Mallory Dunlevy had an infield single. When the throw got away, Marissa Deeter scored to break the deadlock and Dunlevy ended up on second base.
“It was a throw that probably shouldn’t have been made,” Gibson said. “Mallory (Dunlevy) was past the base when she threw it. But, that was why we put Marissa (Deeter) in to run. We wanted to stay aggressive.”
Haley Pack then delivered a RBI double to score Dunlevy and make it 2-0.
“What a huge at bat by Haley (Pack),” Gibson said. “It is always great to see a senior come through like that.”
Shaffer could only think about what could have been. While Newton was flawless in the field, Bradford had four errors.
“When Newton took the lead, we had more hits than them at the time,” Shaffer said. “I thought ‘Are you kidding me?’ But, that is softball. Their pitcher (Kristen Rappold) did a great job keeping our hitters off-balance. I think if it hadn’t been for the errors, we would still be playing.”
That was enough to give Newton a big win.
“We knew this wasn’t going to easy,” Gibson said. “We knew it would be a grind the whole game and it was.”
And it might not be the last meeting of the two teams — and there could be even bigger stakes in the postseason.
“We could well meet them again and we will be ready,” Shaffer said.
For another softball “Classic”.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.