Softball deals with Valley conference woes

Two years removed from winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, the Bradley Braves softball team has stumbled all the way to the bottom of the MVC.

Riding an eight-game losing streak, the Braves find themselves 1-13 in conference and 8-34 overall. 

“People can look at our record and think a lot of things about this team,” head coach Amy Hayes said. “It came down to execution and luck. You won’t win a lot if you don’t have either.”

The schedule is chock full of big blowouts and one-run losses, and the Braves have consistently found themselves on the wrong side of the outcome. 

The stats of the MVC season show why the losses keep coming for the Braves.

The team’s batting average is a conference low .244, with the second-lowest home run total and second-highest strikeout total. The two players carrying the most weight for the Braves, junior Julie Sherman and senior Brittany Fairbairn, are both batting above .320, but the drop off from there is noticeable. 

With eight players batting below .250, the Braves offense has little chance of having consistent run production. 

With Fairbairn and Katie Singler, the team leader in RBI and home runs, graduating, the Braves will have to look at the young bats of freshmen Madeline Lynch-Crumrine and Brianne Joseph for next year. 

The pitching has not been much better.  The pitching staff, built around Mackenzie Camp, Lindsay Hufeld and Lynch-Crumrine all have ERAs at or above 4.20.

They have the least amount of wins and have given up the second most hits and second-most earned runs. 

The bright spot is that all three will be returning to Bradley next year, with one more season of experience under their belts. 

The same inconsistency has rung true for the Braves’ defense. The Braves lead the league in errors and were tied for the worst fielding percentage in the league.

“Basically, we just need to get consistent all the way around.” Hayes said.

Before the season is pronounced a lost cause, the Braves’ upcoming series may help them escape from the bottom of the conference. 

The upcoming opponents include eighth Indiana State, sixth place Northern Iowa, ninth place  Evansville and the seventh place Wichita State Shockers.

The Braves will return home for the season’s last series against the Shockers on May 7th. 

“The bottom line is these are great individuals and fine representatives of Bradley,” Hayes said. They are making a huge impact on one life, and if everyone did that, we’d live in a much better world.”