The Bradley softball team got walked on and walked off this week as they were swept by Northern Iowa and Illinois State.
In the series opener against Northern Iowa, sophomore pitcher Julie Kestas hurled a gem but didn’t get any help from her offense. Senior Jaelen Hull pitched the seventh inning and gave up a walk-off double to UNI second baseman Brittany Krodinger, as the Panthers won 1-0.
“UNI’s got some of the better pitching in the conference,” head coach Amy Hayes said. “If I knew the answer to why we struggled, we could have made a quicker adjustment. I think we needed to be more aggressive. We were taking too many pitches against good pitching.”
Bradley was also shut out in the second half of Friday’s doubleheader 5-0, but freshman Emma Jackson had a good outing for the Braves.
“The bright spot of the week was Emma Jackson. She did a really good job,” Hayes said. “She had a good fall but hadn’t really found her groove yet this spring. It’s exciting to see that we’ve got someone else to go to in the bullpen when we need to.”
In the series finale, Bradley took a three-run lead into the bottom of the seventh, but UNI clawed their way back into the game. Kestas came in to face Krodinger, who hit a two-run homer to narrow the Bradley lead to one at 8-7. Hull then replaced Kestas and gave up a walk-off, two-run home run to UNI right fielder Macy Wolfe.
“You have to risk it to get the biscuit,” Hayes said. “When you don’t get pitches as tight as you want them to be, then that’s probably going to be the result. Jaelen has not been throwing as much because we have wanted to use her as a closer. So we’re going to try and mix it up a bit this week and get her a few more innings to get her back on track.”
The heartbreak continued into the week as the Braves travelled to Normal to play a doubleheader against the Redbirds on Wednesday afternoon. The Braves were drubbed 9-1 in the first game after giving up four home runs in the first inning. In the nightcap, Bradley took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t hold the lead as Jordan de los Reyes hit a walk-off three-run homer.
After starting MVC play 3-3, the Braves have now dropped to 5-12, but the toughest part of their schedule is behind them. The team’s last three series’ of the year will be played against Drake, Loyola and Indiana State, the three worst teams in the Valley.
“Right now, our fight needs to take care of the things that we can take care of,” Hayes said. “We can’t worry about anyone else we have played at this point and what they’re doing. At the end of the day, I think we need to have a little bit more grit and a little bit more belief, and that’s hard when you’ve taken some knocks. But I think the true testament of team is how you’re going to bounce back from this.”
Bradley will look to rebound this weekend as they host Drake. The teams will square off in a doubleheader at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. The series will conclude at 11 a.m. Sunday.