The Bradley baseball team has strung together its longest winning streak of the season after Tuesday’s 2-0 win over the University of Illinois, and the four-game streak is coming at an ideal time. The men kick off their Missouri Valley Conference season today against Missouri State, which is one of the top teams in the conference.
Head coach Elvis Dominguez said he believes that if his team keeps up its current performance, it will have a great chance to compete in Springfield, Missouri.
“We have to do what we did [Tuesday], which is throw the ball over the plate and being able to compete on the mound,” Dominguez said. “If we don’t do that and revert back to our old ways, we’re right back to square one.”
Dominguez was referring to Tuesday’s win over the Fighting Illini, in which the Braves used three pitchers to combine for a shutout on seven hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts. Sophomore Cole Cook earned the win by going four innings, yielding three hits and a walk while earning his sixth win of the season.
“We threw strikes and commanded the strike zone – that’s basically all pitching is,” Dominguez said. “[Cook] just competes so well … he goes after hitters. He doesn’t overpower anybody, but he just basically makes them uncomfortable in the box, and he pitched real well for us.”
Bradley’s only runs came on a sacrifice fly in the first and an Illini error in the eighth. Though the pitching staff won Tuesday’s game, it’s been the offense that has carried the team for most of the season, thanks to the approach of the hitters throughout the lineup.
“I think [assistant coach] Kyle Trewyn has done a great job with them as far as understanding what an approach is and what certain situations call for,” Dominguez said. “I think there’s been a very unselfish approach offensively from one through nine. Guys just understand their roles and are willing to do whatever it takes to put up runs.”
The Braves scored a combined 28 runs in last weekend’s wins over Robert Morris-Peoria, Robert Morris-Springfield and Eureka College. Though all four runs in Friday’s 4-3 win were unearned, the offensive attack was still the driving force behind the 15-0 and 9-7 wins.
“We just go up there and try to have a good gameplan against whatever pitcher we’re facing,” freshman designated hitter Derek Bangert said. “Our whole philosophy is to have productive at-bats and score some runs. For the most part, I think we’ve been able to do that.”
The wins not only provided momentum for the Braves entering the weekend but also allowed for them to mix and match a lot of different lineups and give everyone on the roster a chance to play.
“The competition wasn’t D1 level, but at the same time it was very competitive,” Dominguez said. “Hopefully our guys got an opportunity to get some confidence on the mound, and we were able to do that, and I think that helped lead to [Tuesday’s] win.”
Bangert said the winning streak has been “a confidence boost” to the team, and the Braves will need confidence going into this weekend’s series against Missouri State, who boast a top-30 RPI ranking.
“Missouri State is such a great quality program,” Dominguez said. “We have our hands full, so we have to go in there and play complete baseball.”
Game one of the three-game series starts tonight at 8:05 p.m. in Springfield.