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Bradley baseball puts up crooked numbers ahead of conference games

Timmy O’Brien crosses home plate after a home run against Illinois, Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

Bradley baseball has started to pick up the pace, winning three of their last five games after dropping the prior six.

However, the Braves’ offense had been struggling for a few weeks, as they had no luck against Lindenwood and Stetson University in their four-game series.

“We didn’t like where we were at from an offensive standpoint,” senior Jackson Chatterton said. “We had a day off in Florida, and we decided as captains, me, [senior] Ryan Vogel and [senior] Logan Delgado, to meet with the hitters, sit down and get back to the basics and get back to what we’ve been doing for the last four years here.”

This meeting did wonders for the Braves as they came out firing against Rollins College, scoring eight runs in the first inning and taking the 12-3 victory on March 12.

After that big win to boost morale, the Braves faced Big East conference member Butler in a three-game series that weekend. The Braves started to look like their old selves in that matchup, scoring a plethora of runs in the process.

In game one, Bradley maintained their momentum with an 18-5 win, scoring 13 runs in the first three innings with the help of Chatterton’s four-hit, six RBI day, which included a grand slam and the first cycle hit by a Bradley player since March 9, 2019.

Junior Timmy O’Brien also had a huge day, getting three hits and four RBIs, while freshman Isaac Sobieszczyk had two hits and walked twice. The pitcher, redshirt sophomore Noah Edders, threw 98 pitches in five and 1/3 innings and got six strikeouts to secure his third win this season.

The Braves dropped game two, but the offense scored 13 runs in their 19-13 loss to tie the series at one apiece.

O’Brien had three hits and reached base three times. Chatterton continued his hot streak with a two-hit game and another grand slam, giving himself four RBIs on the day.  

The junior trio of Tyrese Johnson, Cole Luckey and Ryan Taylor had two-hit games along with Sobieszczyk, where Johnson and Luckey knocked in two runners and Sobieszczyk and Taylor knocked in one.

Despite these great performances, Butler scored fifteen runs combined in the third and fourth innings, as the pitchers struggled to find consistency with seven walks and four hit batsmen, along with four errors committed by the fielders behind them.

The misstep was short-lived, as the Braves came back with a 21-11 victory in game three to win the series.

Vogel, Delgado, junior Travis Lutz, O’Brien and Luckey all had three hits, including five-RBI days from Vogel and Delgado, a four-RBI day from O’Brien and a home run from all three of them.

On the pitching side, after a rough start where the Braves gave up 11 runs in the first three innings, junior Anthony Potthoff came on in relief and pitched the rest of the five innings. Only allowing two hits and one walk along with nine strikeouts to shutout Butler for the back half of the game, he allowed the Braves hitters to make a comeback in the fourth and fifth innings where they scored five runs in each.

With the pitching struggles the Braves have faced in their last few games, head coach Elvis Dominguez thinks Potthoff has done a great job at stepping up to the mound and taking control of situations that get out of hand.

”What Anthony Potthoff did was phenomenal,” Dominguez said. “The kid hasn’t been used in that kind of role before, but we definitely needed somebody to shut the door…he let our offense get some momentum and keep crawling back, and that was really the turning point of it all.”

Chatterton’s weekend earned him MVC Player of the Week honors. He accumulated eight hits, four walks, 10 RBIs, two home runs and seven extra-base hits.

”He’s been a really great player for us for four years,” Dominguez said. “He got off to a rough start, and now, hopefully, he is getting himself back to the player that he can be, but I was really happy for him to be able just to get back on the plus side offensively that we clearly needed down the stretch.”

Chatterton started the season with three hits in his first eight games, but he knew he had to work and change his mindset to see some improvements, which he has with nine hits in his last six games.

”It kind of just took me extra work in the cages,” Chatterton said. “I used to be very results-based with my hitting where if I didn’t get a hit I’d be upset, but now if I work a good at-bat, then I consider that a win.”

However, in the Braves’ next game on March 19, their pitching woes worsened as the offense scored double-digit runs for the fifth consecutive game, losing to Illinois by a score of 12-10.

The Braves had a lead of 8-4 heading into the fifth, but six runs in the bottom of the inning from the Illini gave them a lead that the Braves could not take back despite a two-run final frame.

Bradley still had some standout performances. Sophomore Beau Durbin and Luckey both had two hits, while Luckey, Sobieszczyk and O’Brien all went deep, with O’Brien knocking in three runs.

Despite not winning all of their games, the Braves hope to regain momentum as they head into their first conference matchup.

”It’s like a whole new season,” Chatterton said. “Once conference starts, it’s like another step up, it’s a whole different season where everyone brings their A game…you can’t let the little things get to you, and you have to be able to step up when it’s your time to shine.”

The Braves will play their first conference game at 5 p.m. today against Illinois State.

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