Paced by their offense for the second straight week, the Bradley baseball team took two out of three games for a series win against rival Illinois State. The Braves produced 10 or more hits in each game to outscore the Redbirds 25-18, their biggest run differential in a series this season.
According to head coach Elvis Dominguez, there are multiple reasons why the offense is progressing, including players taking different approaches in their at-bats and the work they put in during practice.
“I think a lot of our younger guys are starting to get into a routine, so the experience is starting to pay off a little bit,” Dominguez said. “We changed some things in practice, too, to try and help everyone along, so it’s a combination of a few things.”
In the series opener, Bradley showed that their lineup is dangerous from one through nine, as the bottom third of the lineup combined to go 8-for-11 with four runs batted in and eight runs scored.
In game one, the Braves put up 13 runs, which was far more than senior Nathan Stong needed as he earned his second complete game of the season, limiting the visiting Redbirds to three runs on six hits. Stong walked one and struck out six to pick up his third win of the season.
Freshman third baseman Brendan Dougherty was the driving force behind Bradley’s offense through the entire weekend, going 9-for-12 with two RBI and five runs scored.
“I felt really good going into the series,” Dougherty said. “I had a couple good at bats against Iowa in the mid-week game last Wednesday. I felt like I was seeing fastballs really well, and I just tried to have an aggressive mindset. It paid off, and I found some barrels and found some holes.”
In the final game of the series, Bradley went up early, taking a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning. Illinois State did not quit, however, and put up six runs of their own to go up 6-3. Thanks to Luke Shadid’s go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning, the Braves were able to pull out the victory, 8-6.
According to Dougherty, the hitters need to keep pressure on the pitcher by scoring runs to avoid those types of situations.
“What we need to do as hitters is stay on the pitcher and get to the bullpen,” Dougherty said. “We scored early and then kind of let off the gas pedal a little bit. Once we had them down we should’ve just scored a few more runs, and I think they would’ve just folded over. We also need to play solid defense because we had a few costly errors in that game too.”
A struggling bullpen cost the Braves a game against Illinois State. The Braves also dropped the mid-week game against Illinois last Tuesday because of struggling relief pitching.
Dominguez said he hopes his bullpen will be more dependable as the season moves on.
“I’d like to see a little more consistency out of our bullpen and guys coming into the game in certain situations,” Dominguez said. “It’s been a troublesome area for us all season, but hopefully we can figure it out coming down the stretch.”
The Braves will be looking to put it all together as they hit the road to take on Indiana State with the first game of the series starting at 5:30 p.m. tonight.