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A sneak peek into the diamond for Bradley baseball

Bradley baseball takes in the national anthem before their 2024 opening day game against Western Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

After a 16-32 record a year ago that included a 7-20 showing in conference play, Bradley baseball enters uncharted territory for 2024: last place.

“That’s the first time we’ve been ranked last since I’ve been here in 15 years,” head coach Elvis Dominguez said.

The Braves were ranked last in the Missouri Valley Conference’s (MVC) preseason poll after a last place finish in the league in 2023. Their performance left a bad taste in the mouth of the players and coaches.

But with a new season comes new hope, and this new hope comes in the form of fresh blood and familiar faces.

One of the faces ready to change the Braves’ last place narrative is junior pitcher Jacob Kisting. Kisting was ranked the third-best prospect in D1 Baseball’s ranking of MVC prospects this preseason, and he is ready to start winning in 2024.

“I think it’s a great honor and I’m appreciative and grateful,” Kisting said. “At the end of the day, the big thing this season is winning games. Everyone back understands the struggles we had last year. Moving forward this year, the focus is on winning each day as a single day rather than a whole week or weekend and focusing on the little things.”

Kisting led the team last year with 79 strikeouts over 72.2 innings. He’d like to replicate some performances from last year, such as his two-hit, one-run game against Little Rock on Feb. 26 or his 12-strikeout game in the Braves’ very next matchup with Jacksonville State, where he only gave up three hits in six innings.

Senior center fielder Ryan Vogel is also looking for vengeance after last season. He spent his off-season trying to add some verticality to his game.

“This past offseason I worked on some swing changes, trying to hit the ball in the air a little bit more,” Vogel said. “Get some more true backspin off the balls and get a little more power up the opposite field. Putting some more backspin on balls in the gap and hitting balls in the air is something that I’m gonna do a lot more of this year.”

Vogel is Bradley’s active leader in stolen bases with 39. He contributed about half of those steals last year while also being exceptional with the bat, posting a .382 batting average.

Bradley’s newcomers and injury returners are also set to make some waves. Junior catcher Nick Hosie comes from Colby Community College with a career .314 batting average and a .536 slugging percentage with 19 extra-base hits and seven home runs in his 49 games as a Trojan. The Australia native will look to hold down the fort behind the plate.

Alongside Hosie, junior infielder Timmy O’Brien is returning from injury, having last stepped to the plate during the 2021-22 season. In 20 games, he boasted a .261 batting average, with five of his 12 hits being doubles.

Another injured Brave making a comeback is Michael Mylott. Last year, the junior outfielder played in only 17 games, posting a .235 average with three doubles and a home run. Pairing him with Vogel and junior Tyrese Johnson, a Central Arizona College transfer who batted .317 and stole 17 bases last year, the Braves’ outfield appears to be in good shape for Dominguez.

“We got 16 new players on our roster,” Dominguez said. “I’m excited about the arms we brought in and the players returning from injuries.”

Bradley also hit a home run in terms of bullpen additions. Junior Jack Stellano worked more as a reliever at Heartland Community College, pitching 33 innings and finishing the season with a 13-1 record. Sophomore Nick Hainline pitched 68 innings, accumulating 68 strikeouts and a 5-4 record at Illinois Central College before he arrived at Bradley this year.

The Braves have their work cut out for them this year, but Dominguez and the rest of the team are ready to take on the challenge. They battle UNLV this weekend.

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