By Rob Kiser
MASON — Eight innings wasn’t enough for the Bradford softball team Sunday in a Division IV district championship game at Mason High School.
Well it was enough for a 2-1 win over Cincinnati Christian in walkoff fashion — it just wasn’t enough to satisfy the Lady Railroaders.
Which explains the delayed reaction after Emma Canan raced home with the winning run in the home eighth inning.
Bradford, 20-3, will play Mechanicsburg in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Greenville.
“I wanted to keep playing,” Bradford fireballer Skipp Miller said. “I wanted to score some more runs.”
Even Canan didn’t react at first.
“I scored and I was standing there — and it was like, ‘Oh Yeah, we just won the game,’” Canan said.
And Bianca Keener, whose ball the Lady Cougars couldn’t handle to plate Canan, had other things on her mind.
“I was just trying to make sure I made it to first,” Keener said. “I didn’t even know Emma (Canan) had scored.”
Riding the amazing pitching of the freshman Miller, Bradford won what is believed to be the third district title in the softball program’s history and matched the deepest they have ever gone in the postseason.
“I don’t know if I expected to have a season like this (as a freshman), but it is exciting,” Miller said. “That (Cincinnati Christian) is a good team. I wanted to keep playing.”
The game was tied 1-1 in the home eighth inning when Chelsea Gill reached on an error.
After Canan put down a perfect bunt for a single, Miller hit into a fielder’s choice, leaving runners on first and second.
On Bailey Wysong’s fielder’s choice, Canan hustled down to third and slid past a tag attempt, loading the bases.
“I knew it was going to be close,” Canan said. “I thought I could beat her.”
Bradford coach Shon Schaffer then called Keener over before she stepped to the plate.
“I told her she was going to have one chance to win the game with a bunt,” Schaffer said.
On a squeeze, the bunt landed fair, before rolling foul.
Suddenly, Keener had two strikes on her.
“When I was a freshman, coach (Schaffer) would put me up with two strikes — I guess that was practice for today,” Keener said with a laugh. “I was in trouble (with two strikes) or I had to make contact.”
She did just that and when Canan raced home, the Railroaders were district champions.
“I couldn’t be happier for her (Bianca Keener),” Schaffer said. “She is such a great kid.”
Miller was mowing through the Cougar order — combining a 60 miles per hour-plus fastball with a wicked changeup.
The Cougars only hit in the game — a one-hopper back to Miller, who bobbled it — could have easily been scored an error. Miller would strikeout 13, including striking out the side in the fifth and eighth and walked just two.
“Skipp (Miller) has done an amazing job,” he said. “And when she has the changeup working, you are in trouble if you are facing her.”
At the same time, Bradford had baserunners in every inning but the fifth — but Cougar hurler Briahna Bush continued to dodge bullets. Bradford would have four hits in the game and strikeout seven times and walk once.
“We had a lot of chances,” Shaffer said. “We just couldn’t get that big hit.”
But, in the sixth, the Railroaders broke through.
Canan, who had doubled in the first inning, had a two-out single. Miller hit a hard shot up the middle. Canan never broke stride and when the centerfielder bobbled the ball, Bradford had a 1-0 lead.
“I was scoring all the way,” Canan said.
Schaffer knew it was well.
“The reason Emma (Canan) is so fast is because she has played a lot of travel ball,” he said. “I always tell them, if I have to tell you to go, then it is too late.”
That seemed like it would be the game-winner.
But, after Ashley Verdkamp’s infield single in the seventh for the Cougars, she stole second. The throw got by everyone and Verdkamp scored the tying run.
“I thought the kids did a great job of getting re-focused,” Schaffer said. “That is something we are always talking about.”
Then, came the eighth inning — and a game that ended too early for the Bradford players, although they were happy with the win.
“That’s what I love about these kids,” Schaffer said. “They just want to keep playing.”
And they get a chance to do that Wednesday — and make some Lady Railroader history.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.