The softball team used a pair of late-game rallies to pick up two victories in its three games against Missouri Valley Conference opponent Wichita State last weekend.
After dropping the first contest of the three-game set by a score of 2-0, the Braves were able to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning twice for back-to-back 5-4 conference wins over the Shockers.
“I was really pleased to take two out of three for our home opener,” coach Amy Hayes said. “We had some kids come up really big for us. Miriam Wegmann had a tremendous week and she was just out of her mind against Wichita.”
Senior pitcher Ashley Birdsong (6-6) suffered the loss in the first game, surrendering five hits and three walks in another complete-game effort. Birdsong also had seven strikeouts in the game, which was the first of Saturday’s doubleheader at Laura Bradley Park.
The Bradley bats were held quiet in that first game, as the Braves were only able to muster five hits, including two a piece by Wegmann and junior Lindsay Watkins.
“We just came out a little timid in the first game, and we talked about that between games,” Hayes said. “It really comes down to where we want to be at the end of the season, and that’s how we needed to start playing.”
Bradley jumped out to an early lead in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader, as senior Anne Creighton and Wegmann were both plated in the bottom half of the first after a single to center field by senior Alycia Bachkora.
The Shockers answered right back in their half of the second, taking advantage of a pair of Bradley errors for two scores.
Wichita State was then able to tally two more runs, scoring in the third and fifth innings, while Bradley was only able to back up its big first inning with two more hits in the next five innings, entering the final frame trailing 4-2.
But the Braves’ offense was resurrected with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, as they went on to rattle off three runs and take a 5-4 victory on a single by freshman Jackie Roth that scored Wegmann.
Junior Amanda Clack (2-2) was the winning pitcher in the game, hurling two and two-third innings of scoreless relief. Wegmann finished the day 4-for-6 with three doubles, two runs and an RBI in Saturday’s split with Wichita State.
Sunday’s rubber match against the Shockers again put Bradley in position for a comeback victory, but this time it took extra innings.
The Braves were trailing 4-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, but, again with two outs, BU was able to spark a late rally after Wegmann was intentionally walked for the second time on the day and moved to second on a Roth single. Wegmann came around to score and force extra innings after Bachkora drove her home with a single through the left side of the infield, tying the game at four.
The Shockers were held scoreless in their half of the eighth, and Bradley freshman Julie Sherman drew a leadoff walk to kick off the inning for the Braves.
Sherman moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and was in position to tag up to third when Clack hit a fly ball to right field, but the ensuing catch and throw were both botched by the Wichita State outfielder, allowing Sherman to score and giving the Braves another come-from-behind win.
“Our main thing was that we never really quit,” Hayes said. “We really rallied hard in those seventh innings and made all those good things happen with two outs.”
Bradley improved to 12-13 overall and 3-3 in the Valley after the weekend victories.
The Braves were supposed to host Western Illinois Tuesday night for a doubleheader as part of its season-long nine game home stand, but the games were cancelled because of rain.
“The past two days, we’ve had really good practices and there’s been an energy that hasn’t really been there before – an energy of confidence,” Hayes added. “I think they’re starting to believe.”
Bradley hosted Loyola at 4 p.m. Thursday at Laura Bradley Park, but results were not available at press time.