Softball stuck in the Cellar

Junior infielder Elizabeth Leonard is hitting .278 for the Braves this season.
photo by Justin Limoges

The Bradley softball team was swept by Drake over the weekend and fell to Illinois State on Tuesday night. They have dropped their last nine games and sit in last place in the Missouri Valley Conference.

When Drake came into town over the weekend, head coach Amy Hayes said her team knew it was a big series for them. They struggled right from the get-go, as Drake pitcher Kailee Smith had their number. Smith threw 17 innings over the weekend, limiting the Braves to nine hits and only one run.

“[Smith] did a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone and moving it around,” Hayes said. “I don’t think we made the adjustments we talked about making against her.”

In one of the most vital weekends of the year, Hayes felt her team was flustered and couldn’t find its rhythm.

“I just feel like we were distracted all weekend,” Hayes said. “That series is crucial. We still have a good fight, but knowing, going into that weekend how important it was, I just felt like we were flat. I just think that we just didn’t play with a lot of confidence.”

The team also held a youth clinic on Sunday after their game, where kids from the area were able to get on the field to learn from and interact with the team.  

“Our girls are very excited to teach the game to another generation, and they have a lot of fun with it,” Hayes said. “We didn’t win on Sunday, but as disappointed as we were, we had to turn around and put on a good face because those kids didn’t care if we won or lost, those kids just wanted to hang out with them.”

On Tuesday night, Bradley finished their mid-week series against Illinois State. Bradley started freshman Emma Jackson in the circle but she gave up six runs in four innings as the Braves fell 6-2.

“[Illinois State] had not seen Emma or Emily in the two games last week, so that was part of [the decision],” Hayes said. “They’re a strong hitting team, so you have to find a way to keep them off balance, and Emma does a good job of that. She’s got really good movement on here ball. She’s kind of sneaky fast on some of her pitches. She walked three and hit one, and that’s what killed her.”

Bradley now enters the crux of their season as they sit in last place in the MVC. Only the top-eight teams make the conference tournament, so Braves are in dire need of some victories this weekend.

“We’re in the fight of our lives right now, as is Indiana State, Drake and Loyola to some extent,” Hayes said. “This is where we see if we’re resilient or not.”

The team will travel to Chicago to take on Loyola at noon on Saturday, and will finish the series at 11 a.m. Sunday.