After equaling the second-longest winning streak in program history, the Bradley baseball team finds itself amidst a three-game losing streak. The Braves lost two of three in a Missouri Valley Conference series at Dallas Baptist and a mid-week matchup against Illinois.
The Braves are now 24-13 overall and 4-5 in MVC play. Prior to last weekend, Bradley was undefeated in 12 consecutive games and held the longest active winning streak in the nation.
Bradley head coach Elvis Dominguez thought the team competed hard against the DBU Patriots, despite the results in the second and third games.
“[The team was] playing great baseball,” Dominguez said. “There were two out of three great ball games down at DBU [that we could have won].”
Last Friday, Bradley surged late in the first game of the series against DBU to win 2-1 at Horner Ballpark, thanks to RBIs by senior outfielders Jean-Francois Garon and Andy Shadid.
Senior pitcher Mitch Janssen led an impressive effort that night by turning in 5.1 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.06. He walked two in the fifth, but redshirt junior pitcher Ben Olson came on and kept the game scoreless with a ground out and pop out.
Garon homered for the first run of the game in the seventh inning, his fourth of the season. Junior outfielder Dan Bolt hit a single followed by Shadid’s two-out triple, securing a Braves’ 2-0 lead.
Olson struck out four Patriots in the seventh and eighth innings with ease. DBU’s Evan Sandmann had an RBI that cut the Braves’ lead to one. Olson found in trouble in the ninth, however, alongside junior infielder Luke Shadid’s throwing mishap that put runners on the corners with no outs.
Junior Theron Denlinger relieved and stopped the potential DBU comeback with a pair of ground balls and a strike out, securing his third save of the season.
On Saturday, Dallas Baptist completed a doubleheader sweep against the Braves, winning 14-3 and 7-6 to end Bradley’s 12-game win streak. The Braves had their opportunities to win the series, but gave DBU the chances to take it away, according to Dominguez.
The Patriots scored in each of the first four innings of the second game, including a five-run second inning. They run-ruled the Braves 14-3 in the seventh inning.
In the final game, Bradley scored early with three runs in the first inning followed by one in the second. DBU, however, scored twice with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to comeback for the 7-6 victory. As a result, the Patriots took the series, two to one.
Bolt highlighted the day for the Braves with two hits and a home run in each game. He extended his team-high home run count to eight and hitting streak to 14 games. He said he felt good about his individual performance in the last two games even though the team couldn’t close out the series.
“It’s a good feeling [to make two hits a home run] for sure,” Bolt said. “We got a lot of walks [against us], which are going to kill you though. It was a good game and I have a lot of respect for them, but that was a tough game to lose.”
Bradley’s starting left fielder, Bolt, was recognized for his hot week at the plate nationally and by the MVC league office Monday. In the morning he was recognized along with 14 other players by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as National Players of the Week and later in the day as the Missouri Valley Conference Player-of-the-Week.
On Tuesday night, Bradley hosted Illinois in a non-conference, 10-inning contest at Dozer Park. Illinois delivered back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the 10th to secure a 4-2 win.
The Fighting Illini scored a run early in the third, but the Braves tied it at one in the seventh, thanks to a game-tying home run from Andy Shadid.
The Braves had their backs to the wall again after first baseman Kellen Sarver hit a homer of his own to give Illinois the lead, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.
While Bolt’s team-best 14-game hitting streak ended that night, he secured a leadoff walk to start a ninth inning rally. Bolt advanced to second on a passed ball and tied the game following a sacrifice fly from Andy Shadid, who evened things yet again.
Dominguez said Shadid and Bolt have been performing great this year for the team and the ninth inning against Illinois was a testament to that.
“Both [Shadid and Bolt] have been carrying us all year,” Dominguez said. “Andy basically tied the game for us in the seventh. Danny hit three great balls tonight and one of them happened to hit the pitcher with two runners on base – that’s just baseball, but those guys have had outstanding years.”
Bolt noted how his steals in the late game were vital but still believed the team started slowly.
“I was just looking to advance the base and we were looking to bunt there at the end,” Bolt said. “I’ll take anything to take the extra bag, but I think we came out real slow. I know we got going late in the game, but you got to stay solid throughout the whole game.”
Denlinger couldn’t hold the Illini in the final inning giving up two runs in three hits and a walk. Illinois’ Michael Massey provided the 3-2 lead on a two-out, two-strike single.
Zac Taylor hit a single of his own to the right field to add an insurance run before Illinois closed out the 4-2 victory in the bottom half of the 10th.
The Braves are on the road to play Missouri State at 2 p.m. today opening a three-game MVC series.