On a lazy afternoon when Ohio pitcher Skipp Miller isn't striking out opponents on the diamond, she can be found hanging out with friends, watching movies or crocheting. Most people, including Miller's teammates, would only expect the elderly to pass their time creating textiles with hooks, but Miller has made an impressive career out of defying expectations.
Miller was one of only 259 students enrolled at Bradford High School in Bradford, Ohio, but she was unique. From an early age, Miller has only known competing at the highest level. Even in the days of specializing in a specific sport, Miller couldn't resist playing in four varsity sports a year.
"I just couldn't sit around and do nothing," Miller said. "I feel like playing multiple sports helped with my athleticism."
In her freshman year with the Railroaders, Miller blew the competition away. She had an ERA of 0.70, threw for 303 strikeouts, and had a record of 23-2. Miller was her conference's player of the year and finished First-Team All-State.
However, Miller didn't have the opportunity to back up perhaps the best season in Bradford softball history. She tore her ACL playing basketball in 2019 and then the COVID-19 pandemic robbed Miller of her junior season. Her senior season was the first time she pitched for Bradford in three years. Miller's senior season was worth the wait, though. She led Bradford High to its first state championship in any sport in school history.
After her historic senior season, Miller committed to Ohio. Unfortunately, Miller faced another severe injury, which meant she couldn't play at all during her freshman season. Having only played for her school team in one of her last four seasons, it was difficult for Miller not to be discouraged.
"I was hard on myself mentally because I felt like I could be out there even though I couldn't," Miller said. " But I was sitting out for a reason, to get better."
Miller's resiliency through the recovery process enabled her to get better quickly and be prepared for the 2023 season. A year that probably wasn't what she'd hoped it would be improved when she received the news that her younger sister, Austy, was joining the team.
"I love (that she's on the team)," Miller said. "It's so much fun, we're roommates too, so it's a double whammy."
Despite a tremendous jump in competition from a school as small as Bradford to Division I softball, Miller looked like a seasoned pro rather than a pitcher making her first start as a Bobcat in the early part of the season. Miller didn't allow an earned run in her first seven innings pitched and recorded her first complete-game shutout in her fourth start.
Miller had her first bad outing against Miami when she gave up seven runs in two innings in an ugly 14-1 loss, but she quickly bounced back with three-straight complete games. And as Miller bounced back from the ugly loss, so did the team. Miller's dominant pitching performances against Bowling Green and Akron were a key part of Ohio's then six-game winning streak.
Coming back home, the Bobcats continued their winning ways behind a high-octane offense and more solid pitching from Miller. When the Bobcats' offense slowed down in the third game of the series against Ball State, Miller saved the day, only giving up two runs in another complete game.
Ohio's winning streak was up to nine, but its next game at Ohio State was its toughest test in months. From the first pitch, Ohio State's pitching was as good as advertised; Ohio didn't record a hit through the first three innings.
The Bobcats needed her more than ever, and Miller delivered every single inning. In the second and third innings, Miller bobbed and weaved with Buckeyes in scoring position to keep the game tied at zero. Buckeye pitcher Allison Smith continued to match Miller with zeros, and when the Bobcats still failed to break through in the sixth and seventh inning, Miller sent the game to extras after retiring three straight Buckeyes.
The Bobcats couldn't capitalize in the eighth inning with bases loaded, and the winning streak looked like it was coming to an end when the Buckeyes had a runner on third and only one out in the bottom of the eighth. Miller came through with a game-saving strikeout and retired the next Buckeye batter to send the game into the ninth.
The Bobcats finally scored the game's first run, meaning Miller had a chance to win it with a scoreless ninth inning. Miller didn't make it easy for herself, though, when she walked the lead-off hitter. To fix the mistake, Miller forced two straight Buckeyes into weak contact, resulting in two straight outs. An out away from one of the greatest single-game pitching performances in Ohio softball history, Miller calmly forced Ohio State hitter Kaitlyn Farley to line out, winning the game for the Bobcats 1-0.
Nobody would have expected the Bobcats to beat the Buckeyes without scoring a run until the ninth inning. Still, as she showed in Bradford High's first State Championship, Miller doesn't care about anyone's expectations. She will do her own thing and throw gems while doing it.