BRADFORD — Bradford High School softball seniors Samantha “Buzz” Brewer, Emma Canan, Maggie Manuel, Skipp Miller and Courtney Monnin have already accomplished an unmatched legacy in school history — ending their careers where they began, in the state tournament.
Not only had no Bradford softball team ever made the final four before their freshman seasons, no class at Bradford High School ever had two Final Four appearaances in its four years.
The last Bradford team to make a Final Four before the softball team in 2018 was the 1982 football team, competing in D-V.
But, the Lady Railroaders aren’t done yet.
Bradford and New Riegel will meet in a D-IV state semifinal at 3 p.m. Thursday at Firestone Stadium.
“We want to go out with a bang,” Skipp Miller, the Railroaders fireballing righthander, said.
Manuel said it was very different for the girls three years ago.
“I didn’t even know we were good until we got to state,” she said with a laugh.
And while the girls may have been too young to know just how good they were as freshman, coach Shon Schaffer knew what they could do.
But, it was a very different approach as freshman.
“Back then, we were just trying to get there,” Schaffer said. “I remember every level we advanced, whether it was district, regional or state, the girls just went crazy. This year, the seniors have done a great job of keeping everybody calm.”
After that season, expectations soared through the roof.
Then, the Bradford softball world turned on its axis.
First, Skipp Miller missed her sophomore season with a torn ACL — then last season was postponed due to Covid.
“It just seems like forever since we were there in 2018,” Schaffer said. “I remember late in her sophomore year, Skipp (who tore her ACL in December that year) was hoping to get back (for the postseason). But, the doctors never cleared her. I know she was really disappointed about that.”
The seniors all agreed on one thing.
The trip to Firestone Stadium as freshman was a valuable learning experience.
“Definitely, I think it will help us having been there,” Monnin and Canan said.
The Railroaders didn’t have an easy path to Akron.
Bradford, the fourth-ranked team in the final poll, had to knock off third-ranked Mechanicsburg 1-0 in the regional final.
New Riegel is ranked second.
In the other semifinal, Cuyahoga Heights is ranked sixth and Newark Catholic is unranked.
“I expect two more games just like the Mechanicsburg game,” Schaffer said. “That’s what you have to expect.”
Miller leads the state by a good margin in strikikeouts with almost 400.
She has a 28-2 record and a .16 ERA.
Junior catcher Austy Miller has a .625 batting average and a cannon for an arm behind the plate. She threw two runners out stealing against Mechanicsburg, including the final out of the game.
Brewer is batting .507, while junior Nylani Beireis has a .400 batting average.
Now, the Railroaders have a chance to add to an already impressive legacy.
“It is a pretty good accomplishment getting to state twice,” Brewer said. “There was definitely more pressure this year.”
Now, the Railroaders would like nothing better than to go out with a “bang”.