GREENVILLE – Mechanicsburg’s tournament run came to an end on Sunday as Bradford nipped the Indians, 1-0, in a Division IV softball regional final.
Trailing 1-0 in the home seventh, Mechanicsburg had speedster Addie DeLong on first base with two outs.
With pitching ace Skipp Miller on the mound for Bradford, it’s difficult to score from first base.
Running on Bradford catcher Austy Miller rarely ends well, either.
But the Indians had to try something.
DeLong, who had 55 stolen bases on the season, took off for second base and Austy Miller threw a strike to shortstop Abby Fike, who tagged DeLong out to end the game and send Bradford back to Akron’s Firestone Stadium for the state semifinals Thursday.
Bradford, 29-2, will play New Riegel at 3 p.m.
Mechanicsburg closes the season at 23-5.
“I get it,” Skipp Miller said. “You have to move the runner, but I was surprised they did it with Austy (Miller) back there.”
Austy Miller, who had thrown DeLong out stealing third to end the first inning, said her eyes lit up when she saw DeLong take off.
“I was so excited,” she said. “(Addie DeLong) is one of the top base stealers. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I did throw her out earlier.”
If anybody was nervous, it was Bradford shortstop Abby Fike.
“I was already cheating towards second because I knew she was going to steal,” Fike said. “I knew I had to get the tag on her. Austy (Miller) is automatic. Her throw is always right there where I can put the tag on.”
Skipp Miller responded on the mound the entire game, shutting out a Mechanicsburg team that had averaged 16 runs per game in the postseason and had not been shut out all season.
And as expected, the Indians didn’t make it easy.
Mechanicsburg put runners in scoring position in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings and went down in order just once.
In the first, Mechanicsburg had runners on first and second with two out when DeLong was thrown out attempting to steal third.
In the third, they had runners at first and second with one out when two fly balls ended the inning.
In the fifth, they had runners on first and second with two out when Fike bobbled a ball at shortstop. First baseman Nylani Beireis saw the runner take off for third as the throw was coming to her at first.
She had the presence of mind to come off the bag and throw a strike to Maggie Manuel at third to end the inning.
In the sixth, Mechanicsburg’s Hanna DeLong hit one to the leftfield fence for a single.
Jasalyn Sartin turned a misjudged fly ball into a double, setting up the two most important at-bats of the game with Bradford clinging to a 1-0 lead and runners on second and third with one out.
Skipp Miller got a ground ball back to her and a strikeout to end the threat.
Miller finished with a six-hitter, striking out eight, walking two and hitting a batter.
At the same, Mechanicsburg’s ace hurler Daytayviah Rodgers was giving the Railroaders nothing.
She allowed just two hits, striking out nine.
But both Bradford hits came in the fourth inning and that was all the Railroaders needed.
Austy Miller led off with a single and stole second,
With one out, Skipp Miller hit a rocket up the middle.
Austy Miller only has one mindset on the bases and stopping at third isn’t it.
“I was scoring,” she said. “To be honest, I never saw where the ball was, I was just running full speed. If I was going to make an out, at least I was doing it trying to score.”
The matchup fans have been waiting for for two years – with Mechanicsburg ranked third in the state and Bradford fourth – lived up to the hype, and then some.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Mechanicsburg Coach Abbey DeLong. “We did all of the things that we needed to do, we just couldn’t get a run across. Daytayviah threw a heck of a ballgame, our defense was solid and we had 6 hits. The girls played a great game.
“My seven seniors left a legacy at Mechanicsburg,” she added. “I will miss them more than anyone will ever know. They aren’t just softball players to me, Scott (DeLong) and I love them like they are our own daughters. They have taught the underclassmen everything they need to know in order for them to be successful in the future. This group was special for sure.”
Robbin Kiser contributed to this story