The game of baseball involves many highs and lows. One moment, you’re taking two of three from conference foes Dallas Baptist and Illinois State, and the next, you’re back to your old ways.
This was the case for Bradley baseball (13-21), as they fell to in-state opponent Illinois (21-17), 9-6 on Wednesday and head coach Elvis Dominguez was not secretive about the reason why.
“We walked too many guys,” Dominguez said. “It just doesn’t make sense at all.”
Indeed, the Braves walked seven and hit two more, with seven of the Illini’s nine runs either bringing in a run or scoring themselves as a result of a walk or hit-by-pitch. It has been a recurring theme for Bradley this season, as they’ve thrown an MVC-worst 194 walks while also trailing the conference in earned runs allowed (211).
The game started off well for the Braves, as RBI singles from freshman Peter Hansen and sophomore Carson Husmann got Bradley on the board first. It was the right fielder’s first hit that wasn’t a double or home run since April 10, meanwhile the Braves scored the 11th and 12th runs given up by the Illini in the first inning all season.
Freshman John Day got the start for only the second time this season and allowed just one base runner, albeit a home run, in two innings of work. Nonetheless, Dominguez was impressed with what he saw from the freshman.
“He did exactly what we expected him to do,” Dominguez said. “Obviously, he gave up one run, but it was a well-hit ball. Other than that, he pitched well.”
Midweek games usually involve lots of pitchers, and Wednesday was no exception as Illinois sent six to the mound opposed to Bradley’s four. The usage of Day, junior Eli Campbell, senior Troy Hickey and sophomore Jacob Campbell doesn’t leave Dominguez a lot of options for this weekend, but he’s used to that by now.
“I haven’t been happy with the pitching depth all year,” Dominguez said. “We only have seven healthy arms, and [we] don’t have many options. Today, we were just gonna manage the pitch counts and then try to get them ready for the weekend.”
Eli Campbell was first in relief, pitching a scoreless third and fourth before Illinois got two in the fifth off of a walk and a wild pitch. Hickey came in during the sixth and walked the first three batters he faced, scoring two runs and setting up an RBI single and fielder’s choice to give the Illini a 7-3 lead.
The bats went cold for Bradley until the seventh, when Husmann’s first career triple scored junior Connor O’Brien and senior Keaton Rice. Husmann then crossed the plate himself on an Illini error to make it 7-6.
However, the Braves could not sustain the momentum, as Illinois got a two-run single in the eighth off of two more walks and a hit-by-pitch to make it 9-6 and seal the game.
“Baseball’s a tough game,” Dominguez said. “It’s hard enough to keep it going when you get three hits. Give their guys credit, but we just walked too many guys in too many key opportunities.”
Husmann finished with three RBIs and O’Brien reached base three times to extend his on-base streak to 32 games, the fourth-longest streak in Bradley history in the past 20 seasons.
“Sometimes when they use a lot of pitchers, it’s just tough to get your timing down,” Dominguez said. “We were able to sneak in, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Bradley goes back to MVC play to take on Evansville in a three-game series starting today at 6 p.m.