State Champs: Thanks For The Free Ride

Bradford wins 1st State Softball Title


I write this 7 hours before game time because some of the best stuff I’ve ever written was done before the event happened. And I know Bradford is going to win. This has been my third “free ride” to a championship. When our daughter was a part of the Tremper 2008 Girl’s State Volleyball Champs, I was along for the ride as a proud parent. When the Northern Ice won the Women’s Professional Football Championship in 2003 I played the role of official statistician (thanks to the great Scott Kessler). And now in 2024, when the Bradford Girl’s Softball Team won it all, thanks to their coach and my lifelong friend (and current boss) John Ruffolo, I have had the pleasure of being this team’s Public Address Announcer. Let me say for the record, there had to have been a coin flip for PA Announcers and the Boy’s Baseball Team won and took the great Bill Lynch. GREAT voice and exceptional DJ skills. I am most definitely 2nd choice…I was so busy NOT getting the walk-up song right that I forgot to announce who was batting. Old-school announcing is about all I bring to the table. I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Here is what I’ve gotten to know about this Championship squad:

Coach John P. Ruffolo. No one…literally no one…deserves this more. Student of the game. Calm until it is time not to be calm. Effective. Reasonable. And never anything but 100% in control of every situation…because he has already been in them all. His place in Wisconsin High School Softball History is secure.

Coach Jamie Atkins. I don’t really know her know her, but I’ve listened to her call several games to the pitcher and catcher. Truly amazing to listen to.

Coach Amy Bostetter. Another coach I really don’t know personally but she’s the 1st base coach among many other roles. Baserunning is HUGE for this team.

Coach Bucky Brems. Veiwing from a distance, looks like a man with experience. Part of what sure looks like a pretty cohesive unit.

Coach Jess Miklos. JV Coach. I know her from work and I know she’s the JV coach…well respected at both…young talent which is a must for any program. Motivator.

Sr Kassidy Fonk OF. Athletic player. Hits the ball down and uses her speed. Plus outfielder. Also a top student academically at Bradford.

Sr Celia May OF. Excellent CF, hits either 2nd or 4th..absolutely a key to this strong offense. She has delivered timely hits all year. Way more pop than you’d expect.

Sr Ella Krauter OF. Another plus outfielder. Always makes sound decisions, and RF is a very active place in girl’s softball. Quietly very steady in a very important position.

Sr Lauren Jean Blanc 1B Captian. Lauren Jean Big Fly. Power to burn. Without question one of the premier power hitters in the state. Rock solid at 1B. Middle of the line-up hitter anywhere.

Jr Morgan Smith SS Captian. Incredibly athletic. She can get to everything in the infield. Very strong arm. Gets on base and is an exceptional base runner. Leads by example.

Jr Aubrey Strelow P/OF. Lefty. Dominant Pitcher who can change speeds like no one I’ve seen. On base, from the lead-off spot…constantly…and with home run pop. Relentless competitor wired for the huge moments.

Jr Brooklynn Danielson P/2B. Righty. Dominant Pitcher who simply overpowers hitters. In the Regional Finals she struck out 21. Just unhittable. No one barrels her up. Dangerous gap hitter, also thrives in big moments.

*most teams have a 1 and a 2 pitcher…lucky teams have a 1 and a 1A pitcher…rare teams have a 1 and a 1 pitcher…this is one of those rare teams.

Jr Angela Parker C. Gifted athlete. Gets up in the morning to win games. Incredible competitor. Welcomes game-determining opportunities. Rakes at the plate and is a born catcher/leader behind the dish.

Jr Robin Loewen. OF. Another great athlete. Defensive specialist in the OF. No 1 runner and has helped win games from the base paths. Outstanding teammate.

So Tessa Heyden OF/DP. A reliable hitter all season long. Very likely to make solid contact each time up. Has been in the middle of some very big innings this season.

Fr Jasmine Grenados. OF. Speed on the bases and in the OF. Another perfect fit for her role on this team. Strong arm, good contact hitter. Reliable.

Fr Mona Duckworth Torres 3B. The hot corner is another HUGE position to hold down defensively and she handled it with the calm not seen in many Freshmen. Line drive hitter.

Fr Madi Strelow 2B. Slap hitter…if she gets it on the ground she’s likely on 1st. Great bunter in a bunters game. Solid defensively, and silly-fast on the bases.

Fr Kyli Lanhardt LF. Came on huge the 2nd half of the season and was another player right in the middle of some big innings. Can play almost anywhere on the field….well.

Fr Rhianna Barker IF/OF. I know Coach well enough to know he ain’t sure when or how he is using Barker but when the situation arises, you won’t have a more gifted, natural athlete doing it.

And now I finish this 4 hours after the 9-3 victory. Happy for Coach Ruffolo..happy for all of em. Happy my wife and daughter and granddaughter were there with me. Happy for Bradford High School. Thankful to Coach for asking me to do this and thankful to the team for not boycotting games because the old dude couldn’t come close to filling Jon Atkins shoes. Thankful for another championship “free ride” courtesy of the 2024 State Champion Bradford Red Devils Softball Team.