Bradley baseball started its campaign once again last weekend as it traveled to San Antonio, Texas and dropped three straight to Incarnate Word to open the season. It’s the first time since 2013 that the Braves have begun the season with a 0-3 record.
Sophomore first baseman Connor O’Brien started hot, hitting .333 in the series with a double and two home runs, one Saturday and one Sunday.
But, the Achilles heel for the Braves this week was pitching. The staff allowed 34 earned runs over the three-game stretch, including 19 walks and eight hit batsmen.
“We played well, I’m just disappointed with the fact that we didn’t throw strikes,” Bradley head coach Elvis Dominguez said. “I don’t know if it was a lot of nerves, but we know they have to learn on the fly.”
Game one for the Braves flashed strong pitching in a 5-0 loss, as junior Brooks Gosswein went six innings and only surrendered two earned runs while striking out five. Ultimately, Gosswein was outdueled by Incarnate Word starter Luke Taggart, who held the Braves scoreless through eight innings.
The bats would get going in the second and third games, as the Braves finally got on the scoreboard. Pitching, once again, let them down as 11 pitchers were used in the final two games. The team earned run average was is 12.75.
Defensively, the Braves committed a lone error the entire weekend. Returning seniors outfielder Dan Bolt and shortstop Luke Shadid both hit above .320 last season, and senior third basemen Brenden Dougherty is known to get on base with an OBP of above .360 every year.
After the first series, the pitching seems to be the only worry according to Dominguez.
“This weekend, I’m looking for consistency, especially on the mound,” Dominguez said. “I’m looking for guys that can throw strikes and hope [last week] was a fluke.”
Behind the plate, junior catcher Keaton Rice will look to stabilize the staff. He is hitting .364 with an on-base percentage of .462. Rice is considered one of the top defensive catchers in the Missouri Valley Conference, as he led the league catching 19 would be base stealers last year.
With pitching the main focus from the past weekend, look for Bradley to double down on the mound this weekend. Four games in four days at four different schools in the Nashville area – Middle Tennessee, Lipscomb, Austin Peay, Belmont – present quite the challenge, yet the Braves bats which plated nine runs Sunday hope the pitching can limit the damage.
The Braves fell 5-0 to open the weekend Middle Tennessee State last night. The Blue Raiders dropped their first three games of the season in Chapel Hill against North Carolina, yet no-hit the Braves for eight and two thirds innings.