Through the first 10 games of the Bradley softball season, head coach Amy Hayes’ team posted a 3-7 record, which can be attributed to a variety of factors.
One could be that five of their 10 opponents have records over .500, but another could be the performance of the pitching staff.
After 10 games, the Braves’ pitchers have allowed 6.2 runs per game, while only scoring 4.6 runs per game.
According to Hayes, this could be because of how the Braves lack a true veteran presence in the circle.
“We’re fairly ventured in the ways of our offense, and not so much in the way of our circle,” Hayes said. “We really haven’t had a true veteran since Maddie [Lynch-Crumrine].”
However, in contrast to the pitching, Hayes said she was pleased with the way the team’s offense has produced, especially considering the weekend before, where the team’s average was up, but the players failed to score runs.
“I think we actually hit pretty well, we came out of there hitting about .275 as a team,” Hayes said. “[This weekend] they really took charge at the plate. It was a really fun offensive weekend for us.”
The Braves’ offensive output began against Morehead State, where the team nearly came back from a seven-run deficit in the final two innings.
Bradley lost 11-10, as sophomore Maria Schroeder grounded out to end the game, stranding senior Kendall Duffy at third.
Schroeder couldn’t complete the furious comeback to drive in Duffy, who drove in four runs in the eighth and ninth innings.
“Our kids, I thought, played hard, and our offense really came back,” Hayes said. “[Morehead State] has been playing really well right now. We just didn’t quite have enough to finish it.”
In a double-header against Kennesaw State the next day, the Braves were shutout 1-0 on a lone home run by the Owl’s Courtney Sutter.
Junior pitcher Jaelen Hull pitched a 7.2 inning, three hit and one run game, with the lone run coming from Sutter’s first-inning home run.
“That was all she wrote,” Hayes said. “Kennesaw State did a really good job of keeping our bats at bay.”
However, the Braves bounced back in the second game.
Freshman pitcher Julie Kestas only allowed one run over 5.1 innings of work and was helped out by two three-RBI performances from Duffy and centerfielder Rachel Huggins.
“She walked seven kids, which has kind of been her achilles heel so far,” Hayes said. “But she made good pitches when she needed to, and that’s the sign of a good pitcher.”
Bradley took the second game of the double-header 6-1, and followed that win up with a 9-8 win against Bowling Green.
“We definitely got two more long balls this weekend, and that’s always fun,” Hayes said. “We showed a little more power and just had some better at bats.”
Junior Kelly Kapp went 3-4 against the Falcons and 13-19 throughout the weekend and was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week.
Although Hayes called Kapp and Duffy a “one-two punch,” as Duffy bats right after Kapp in the batting order, Kapp attributed her success to the confidence she has when Duffy comes up after her.
“I feel extremely confident when she comes up to [hit],” Kapp said. “If I get on first, I normally steal second, and when I’m on second and she comes to the plate, I know there’s a great chance I’m going to score.”
The Braves finished the weekend with a 9-5 loss to Rutgers. However, Hayes sees the positives in winning two games last weekend as opposed to winning one game their first weekend out.
“We’re getting better every weekend out,” Hayes said. “We don’t want to take any steps backwards, and we didn’t do that last weekend.”
This weekend, the Braves head to Florida to take part in the Unconquered Invitational, and their schedule does not get any easier. They’ll play No. 13 Florida State, University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and Hofstra in succession, starting with UAB 11 a.m today.
“Hofstra has been a repeat player in the postseason, and UAB made it to the Super Regional just a couple years ago,” Hayes said. “They’re where we all want to be.”