Milford homers its way over Smyrna in first round

SMYRNA — It’s not like both teams were just swinging for the fences.

But, time and time again, balls kept sailing over Smyrna High’s softball fence on Tuesday afternoon.

By the time they were done, Milford and Smyrna High had combined for nine homeruns in their DIAA softball state tournament game.

The 11th-seeded Buccaneers, though, had six of the homers as they toppled the No. 6 Eagles, 14-8, in a first-round matchup.

By avenging an 8-4 loss to Smyrna early in the season, Milford (15-4) earns a quarterfinal matchup at third-seeded Appoquinimink (16-3) on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Second baseman Darby Brennan had two of the Bucs’ homeruns, finishing with three RBI and three runs scored.

“We went up there with a good mindset of getting our pitch,” said the senior. “We weren’t trying to hit the homeruns, we were just going for a base hit. We just got power behind the ball and they just went.”

“They’re a great, quality ballclub,” Milford coach Sean Brennan said about Smyrna. “They can smack the ball around the yard all day, too. So we knew we had to keep hitting.”

Besides Darby Brennan, four other players homered for Milford: Megan Fry, Nia Bowe, Courtney Kohel and Macey Myers. While Myers’ homerun was the last for the Bucs, the freshman’s two-run shot in the top of the seventh inning was as big as any of them.

Milford’s Megan Fry is congratulated by coach Sean Brennan after she hit a homerun against Smyrna at Smyrna on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The homer capped a five-run seventh for the Bucs and stretched their lead to 14-5. Those five extra runs looked pretty big when Smyrna (15-4) battled back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Two of those runs came when Smyrna’s Kaelyn Press hit a two-run homerun — her third homer of the contest. The junior finished with five RBI and three runs scored.

Finally, though, with a pair of runners on base, Milford pitcher Morgan Abbott got a groundout and a flyball to end the hard-hitting contest.

Smyrna coach Nicki Shirey said she knew it was going to be difficult to beat Milford a second time.

“They had our number,” she said. “My pitcher was throwing inside, outside, going high with it. Even when we were doing a pitchout they’d come across the plate and smack it.

“Seeding doesn’t matter and, even though we beat them earlier in the season, I was not putting any weight on that. I knew their bats were coming today and they showed it.”

The Bucs never trailed after Morgan Petty’s two-out, two-run single put them ahead 2-0 in the first.

Milford’s biggest inning was the third when it scored four runs to open up a 6-1 advantage. Brennan, Fry and Bowe hit three straight homeruns to power the Bucs’ outburst.

Kohel’s two-run homer then gave Milford a 9-3 lead in the fifth. The Bucs finished with 14 hits, including four from Fry and three from Kohel.

In a year where there’s been a great deal of parity in the state, Milford didn’t think of itself as an underdog, despite being a double-digit seed.

“I just feel like that in any tournament it doesn’t really matter where you’re seeded,” said Darby Brennan. “We all have talent. This year we didn’t come out in the seed that we wanted to but it doesn’t matter. We can beat any team.”

“We don’t talk about seeds, we talk about who’s next,” said Sean Brennan. “I don’t care where we are. … We’re going to enjoy tonight. We’re going to have a nice bus-ride home — that (Smyrna) is a great ballclub. But we’re on a mission.”

The best news for Smyrna on the tough day is that it doesn’t have any seniors on the roster. That means everybody’s coming back from this year’s Henlopen Conference Northern Division champion squad.

“We both gave a battle out here today,” said Shirey. “My girls didn’t give up. They don’t give up until the very last out — that’s how they play. They’ve got a lot of grit. They’re small but mighty.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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