Bradford returns to Akron to defend state softball title

The group of Division IV state softball semifinalists includes the defending champion, two seven-time state champions and one team playing in the final four for the first time.

Bradford (23-5) won its first championship last season by beating Cuyahoga Heights 8-0, capping a 30-2 season. It will make its third state appearance in the last four tournaments when it plays Strasburg-Franklin (25-4) at 10 a.m. Friday at Firestone Stadium in Akron.

Strasburg-Franklin ranked third in the final state poll, while Bradford was fifth. Bradford knocked off top-ranked Russia 3-1 on Saturday at Wright State in the regional final after beating No. 3 Mechanicsburg 13-3 in the semifinals.

The Railroaders have won 17 games in a row. Senior Nylani Beireis is 23-4 with a 2.27 ERA and also leads the offense in home runs (10) and RBIs (42). Senior Austy Miller leads the team in hits (56) and average (.577) and has nine home runs and 37 RBIs.

Beireis allowed one run on six hits Saturday against Russia. Alexis Barhorst, Izzy Hamilton and Miller drove in Bradford’s runs.

Strasburg-Franklin last reached the final four in 2018. It won state championships in 2013, 2011, 2009, 1991, 1989, 1988 and 1987 and was runner-up in 2018, 2016, 2010 and 2002.

Jeromesville Hillsdale (23-3) will play first-time state semifinalist Van Wert Lincolnview (24-4) in the other semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Friday. Hillsdale last reached the final four in 2019 and won championships in 2018, 2010, 2000, 1999, 1996, 1994 and 1979 and was runner-up in 1992, 1986 and 1978.

The championship game will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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