Softball drops heartbreakers to I-74 rival Illinois State

The hits kept coming, but the runs never did for the Bradley Braves softball team, as the Braves lost both games of a doubleheader to rival Illinois State at ISU Saturday 3-2 and 3-1.

The first game of the doubleheader was a pitcher’s duel with junior Lindsay Huefeld going toe-to-toe with ISU’s Megan Warner.

Senior Brittany Fairbairn started off the first inning with a single, but an error by ISU let her score and gave the Braves the 1-0 lead.

With both teams struggling to catch up with the pitchers, Huefeld walked two in the second inning, which led to ISU’s Nichelle Harrison’s bloop single that put a run on the scoreboard for the Redbirds.

Huefeld gave up another hit in the third, and the Redbirds pushed the score to 2-1.

All was quiet offensively until the sixth inning when ISU’s pinch runner, Kolby Hoffman, stole second. Following the steal, the Braves committed their only error of the game and Hoffman scored easily.

While a seventh inning rally attempt spearheaded by freshman Alex Chandler cut the score to 3-2, it was not enough, as the Braves failed to cap off the late inning surge.

“I don’t think we ever really found our groove,” head coach Amy Hayes said. “I need to do a better job as coach to make sure we do that.”

Yet again in the second game, the Braves tried to rally back, but a 3-0 Redbirds’ lead was too much for the Braves. ISU’s Jordan Birch pitched a phenomenal game in which she struck out nine Braves.

ISU’s Lauren Kellar, Liz Andrews and Elizabeth Kay all had multiple hits in the early innings, starting off with Kellar scoring in the bottom of the first.

Sophomore Mackenzie Camp gave up another hit to Kellar in the next inning, and Kellar scored from first after Andrews hit a single into centerfield.

After a pitching change by the Braves in the third, freshman Madeline Lynch-Crumrine settled the game down and struck out five batters in three innings of work.

In the seventh inning, the Braves tried again to mount a rally. Chandler got her third hit of the day and fellow freshman KayCee Miller was hit by a pitch.

Junior Julie Sherman drove in Chandler to break up Birch’s shutout, but the rally ended there when the Redbirds turned a double play to win 3-1.

“We went up there and did not have the faith we were going to get it done,” Hayes said. “That’s my responsibility, getting these kids to believe they can get it done. It’s been a struggle.”

The sweep marks the beginning of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule for the Braves. The Braves look to get their first win at home against Drake with a doubleheader Saturday starting at noon and one game on Sunday at noon.