After announcing nearly two weeks ago they were leaving the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State knew they were facing Bradley baseball for, likely, the last time ever.
The Braves made the most of their last meeting, swiping two out of three games from the Shockers.
“We needed to get back on a winning track,” head coach Elvis Dominguez said. “There are mixed emotions because Wichita State was such a staple in the Valley, especially in baseball. So, it’s sad to see them go. It was good for us to take the last series against them.”
Bradley’s offense spurred last weekend’s win, plating 22 runs on 32 hits. Junior Derek Bangert anchored the offensive attack with five hits in 12 at-bats and eight runs batted in, including a grand slam on Saturday.
“He didn’t miss pitches,” Dominguez said. “Earlier in the year, he’d get good pitches and foul them off or miss them. This weekend he tuned in and didn’t miss them … he wasn’t missing mistakes pitchers made.”
Dominguez said he thought a major factor in the win was production from the bottom half of the order. Instead of solely relying on guys at the top of the order, Dominguez said the hitters at the bottom of the lineup were able to turn over the order well for hitters like Bangert and sophomore Andrew Ivelia to bring them in.
“We really got production [from hitters] one through nine, which was really good to see,” Dominguez said.
Bradley also notched a mid-week non-conference win over Iowa, 6-4. The Braves win snapped a 19-game mid-week winning streak for the Hawkeyes and boosted the team’s record against Big Ten opponents this year to 2-2.
“We just kept battling back and forth the whole game,” Dominguez said. “Both pitchers were pitching in and out of trouble the whole time, and neither team capitalized on opportunities most of the game.”
After a two-run home run from Ivelia in the seventh, Bradley finally capitalized on a great scoring opportunity. Iowa committed an error in the eighth inning, which led to three more runs and ultimately put Bradley on top for good.
After a couple weeks of inconsistency at the plate and on the mound, the Braves proved to be balanced in this past week’s games, scoring five or more runs in each of their last four games. Dominguez said he felt the recent performances from his pitching staff have also made a big difference in the team’s recent wins.
“We just went back to the basics,” Dominguez said. “We went back to what we’re known for: pitching and defense. We’re hitting well this year, but it all starts on the mound, and we’ve simplified things there.”
The Braves hope that style of play translates into this weekend’s series against I-74 rival Illinois State, who has yet to win a conference game this season. Regardless of Illinois State’s record, the Braves still have to play a well-balanced series to win this weekend.
“We want to be consistent this weekend,” Dominguez said. “If we stay consistent in all aspects of the game this weekend and down the home stretch, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
Bradley takes on Illinois State this weekend with game one starting tonight at 7 p.m.