The baseball team picked up two wins this weekend on its way to being crowned champions of the rain-shortened Service Academy Spring Classic.
The Braves began the 2009 campaign in style, taking out Pittsburgh in a 10-inning thriller on Friday before out-pitching Memphis to win their second game on Saturday.
First year head coach Elvis Dominguez said his first two games didn’t come easy but they were games his players could learn from.
“It gives us a boost of confidence to keep working hard,” he said. “Hopefully it will carry over into the following games.”
Bradley was able to strike first in both match-ups, and the Braves used the momentum to capture back-to-back wins without ever trailing.
Bradley’s pitching staff had little trouble controlling its stuff, as the team struck out 17 hitters while walking just eight.
Dominguez credits pitching coach Jonathan Hadra for the team’s early success on the mound.
“He has really worked hard with the guys as far as location and trying to make hitters put the ball in play rather than try and strike out everybody,” he said.
Offensively, the Braves came out swinging, scoring 14 runs in the two games.
Senior Grant Escue led the way, going 4-for-9 on the weekend while knocking in five RBIs and scoring three runs, including a grand slam against the Panthers.
“He’s one of our hardest working kids,” Dominguez said. “He had quality at-bats all weekend.”
Bradley 9, Pittsburgh 8
Junior Rob Scahill took the mound for the Braves in the season-opener, yet he appeared to be in mid-season form.
Scahill started his season with four perfect innings, sending the first 12 Pittsburgh hitters back to the dugout empty handed.
The Braves took advantage of Scahill’s strong performance in the fourth, as they found themselves in a bases-loaded, no-outs situation.
Senior shortstop Tommy Fitzgerald singled home the team’s first run before Escue came through with a grand slam to give Bradley a 5-0 lead.
Scahill hit a rough spot in the fifth but was able to limit the damage to three runs, and went on to pitch another perfect inning in the sixth.
“He did a great job of coming back and inducing a ground ball and getting out of the inning with minimal damage,” Dominguez said.
Bradley found itself in another bases-loaded situation in the seventh inning, and used a hit-by-pitch from junior Matt Fritz, a sacrifice fly by Escue and a single by senior Nick Mitidiero to push across three runs and make the score 8-3.
Senior Tyler Thorton came on in relief of Scahill in the seventh and allowed three runs to score as the Panthers tried to rally back.
After a scoreless eighth, Bradley turned to senior Bryan Porter in the ninth, but the pitcher gave up two runs, including the tying run that scored on a wild pitch after a strike out.
Senior Adam Kimball led off the 10th for the Braves with a walk and after being bunted to second, senior Jim Clayton singled down the left field line to score Bradley’s eventual game-winning run.
Porter pitched a scoreless 10th and picked up the Braves’ first win of the season.
Bradley 5, Memphis 1
The Braves struck early in Game 2, pushing across three runs in the first inning.
Mitidiero and senior Colby Lutrell both knocked in two runs on ground outs, and Clayton scored Kimball with a double to right-center field to make the score 3-0.
Senior Collin Brennan started the game for Bradley giving up just two hits and one unearned run over four and a third innings.
The run came across on a walk after a throwing error by Fitzgerald, but with the bases still loaded Brennan induced a ground ball to get out of the inning.
Luttrell knocked in another run in the bottom of the third to get the run back for the Braves, and Fitzgerald later homered to score Bradley’s final run.
Freshmen Brandon Stevens and Jacob Booden combined to pitch the final four and two-thirds innings.
The duo gave up just three hits with six strikeouts, while only walking two.
Dominguez said he was proud of the way his freshmen pitchers performed.
“It means a tremendous amount,” he said. “Especially for them, to be in their first collegiate games and to be able to have success against such a quality program like Memphis.”