Softball loses first Valley series to visiting Panthers

Bradley’s softball team went into last weekend’s home series against Northern Iowa on a hot streak, winning seven of its last nine games. However, the magic didn’t last as the Braves came out of the UNI series with a win and two losses to the Panthers.

This was the first Missouri Valley Conference series the women have lost this season.

“Our goal for the beginning of the season was to win every series,” senior third-baseman Kendall Duffy, who had four hits over the weekend, said. “We’ve been doing that every series except this last one. Even though we couldn’t get the series win, we’ve still been playing well.”

The bats were alive for UNI in the first game Saturday, but not for Bradley. The Braves were blown out 9-0 and accumulated only six singles compared to the Panthers’ 13 hits, which included six doubles and a home run.

“Game one we were slow out of the gate,” head coach Amy Hayes said. “We didn’t make adjustments at the plate in a timely fashion. We didn’t execute the way we needed to.”

The Braves hit their stride at the plate in the next game of the double-header, coming away with a 6-1 victory. This time they were able to notch 12 hits, 11 of which came with two outs.

“The two games on Saturday were like night and day,” Duffy said. “The first game, we weren’t really aggressive. That’s our team motto and that’s what Coach [Hayes] has really worked with us on, being aggressive and attacking the ball. That’s something we came out with the second game, but not the first game.”

The two teams took the field the next day for the series finale, under some undesirable weather conditions. After a two-hour and 16-minute rain delay before the fourth inning, the Braves were defeated 16-6 in a game that only went six innings. Northern Iowa had no trouble on offense, getting 18 hits with three home runs, compared to Bradley’s eight hits.

Duffy said the weather was no excuse for their performance in the last game.

“The weather that we’ve had this spring has been crazy, so we’re kind of used to playing in weather like that,” Duffy said. “It wasn’t a factor.”

At 13-20 overall and 7-5 in conference, Bradley is now tied with Wichita State for third in the MVC standings. Hayes said Valley play has been competitive this year.

“The Valley is showing right now that anybody can beat anybody, so you better bring your A-game,” Hayes said.

Bradley’s next task will be a three-game series at Wichita State this weekend, and the team will try to pull ahead of the Shockers in the conference standings. Both Hayes and Duffy said they feel confident heading into the matchup.

“We have to make sure to not give up extra bases, keep our walks to a minimum and control the plate,” Hayes said. “Our hitters need to attack them early and often. If we do that, we’ll come out on top.”

The series begins with a double-header starting at 12 p.m. Saturday, and the series will wrap up with the third game beginning at 12 p.m. Sunday.