The Bradley men’s baseball team played on an island last weekend in the team’s opening series of the season. No, that’s not a figure of speech – the Braves played on a literal island in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The novelty and beautiful optics of the weekend didn’t faze the Braves as they took two out of three games from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, which validated head coach Elvis Dominguez’s belief that his team is a force to be reckoned with.
“I was really pleased overall in the fact that we controlled the things that we could control,” Dominguez said. “We had really good starting pitching, played really good defense … we had one bad inning the entire weekend, and it cost us a ball game.”
The bad inning Dominguez referred to was the eighth inning of game one. The Braves held a three-run lead heading into the inning, but a plethora of walks from the young bullpen helped to squander the lead as Bradley ultimately lost 10-7.
Though Bradley won two out of three games, the first loss still left a bad taste in their mouths.
“Honestly, we should have come out of that series with three wins,” sophomore first baseman Luke Mangieri said. “It’s always nice to win a series, but it would’ve been a lot better if we swept, so there’s always room to improve.”
Mangieri, who reached base in his first eight plate appearances, helped power the offense in the following 9-5 and 7-6 wins. Though the entire offense wasn’t clicking, according to Dominguez, the Braves had “just enough” to get by with a pair of wins.
“I was really happy with the way we were able to manufacture runs even when [some] guys weren’t getting base hits,” Dominguez said. “We were just executing tremendously to try to get guys in scoring position, and the guys behind them did the job by bringing them in.”
The Braves’ weekend success hinged on the performance of players taking on new roles. Freshman outfielder Luke Shadid went 5-14 over the weekend while the new starting pitching staff, comprised of junior Allan Beer, sophomore Ben Olson and senior Eric Scheuermann, confidently mowed through opposing hitters, according to Dominguez.
Though established starters like senior Spencer Gaa and junior D.J. Gasso struggled a bit at the plate, the emergence of younger hitters validates the depth of the team to Dominguez and will be one of the major strengths the Braves have moving forward.
“I’m pretty confident with what we have,” Dominguez said. “You always have depth, but it’s about having guys in there that can do the job. Not only is it good for them, but it’s good for us that their hard work is paying off.”
Bradley’s depth has created multiple positional competitions, so there is still fluidity in the lineup. However, Dominguez said that’s what the early games are for – figuring out their ideal lineup.
The Braves will continue to search for the perfect lineup this weekend against Tennessee Tech. Bradley begins play in Cookeville, Tennessee at 3 p.m. today.