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Bradley baseball takes one in tough series against Michigan

Bradley head coach Elvis Dominguez motioning from the dugout. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

Bradley baseball finished 2-5 over spring break, taking one of three games against Michigan, one of three against Jacksonville and a 15-2 loss in a midweek clash against Florida Atlantic.

Last Friday, Michigan triumphed over Bradley 8-4 in the first showdown between the two teams. Sophomore pitcher Jacob Kisting held the Wolverines to just one run through five innings, but freshman Noah Edders allowed six runs on six hits and three walks after the Braves and the hosts were tied at one through five innings. Bradley tried mounting a ninth-inning comeback and cut the lead to four, but ended four runs short.

After a rain cancellation on Saturday, the teams opted to play a doubleheader on Sunday where Bradley fell 6-4 in the opening game. The Braves created opportunities but failed to bring their teammates home, leaving eight men on base in a two-score game. 

In the last game of the weekend, Bradley took a 5-1 win to avoid the sweep. Graduate first baseman Connor O’Brien led the offense, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and scoring once. O’Brien knows conference matchups are approaching, and believes Michigan was a good test for him while making the transition into the second part of the season.

“I try and use that momentum going into conference,” O’Brien said. “It’s a good confidence builder beating a big team like that. I just kind of look forward to going into conference and just take that into [MVC play].”

Head coach Elvis Dominguez appreciates the fight he saw out of his pitchers last weekend but doesn’t feel that same way towards the hitting or the consistency in the pitching because of Bradley allowing too many walks.  Dominguez builds the program around pitching and defense, but as the Braves transition to conference play, he knows the time for the clutch hits to occur, is now.

“Three veteran guys who have been through it for us, who have been phenomenal players are just struggling immensely right now, and it’s killing us on the offensive side,” Dominguez said. “Then on the pitching side, it’s just the inconsistency. There are guys that for whatever reason pitch well one day and not the next and I think that’s all on us as coaches to try and figure out what’s going on.”

Prior to the series in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bradley took on Jacksonville in Florida and all three games were closely played.

The Dolphins took game one, winning 9-4 but the Braves came back to take the second game 7-5. In the rubber match, Bradley constructed a 7-0 lead through three innings but allowed Jacksonville to storm back and take the series out of the Braves’ hands by winning 11-9.

Connor O’Brien swings at a pitch on Wednesday against Iowa. Photo by Jonathan Michel

O’Brien hit 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a walk in the 7-5 win. However, Bradley was led through this win by Edders, who threw four innings, giving up one hit and one run, striking out four while allowing five walks. Edders picked up the win in this game, his first on the season.

“I didn’t even realize I got the win until I got on the bus,” Edders said. “It was really cool, it was really nice to contribute that win to the team, to our record, and I’m just hoping to be able to do a lot more.”

The redshirt freshman spoke about the five walks and the extra obstacles they create.

“My whole life, I’ve hated walks,” Edders said. “A really good goal I have for myself is every time I go out there I don’t wanna have any more walks. After that five-walk game, it upset me a little bit, but what I think I’ve done really well is kind of limit the walks, I’ve limited the damage the walks have done to us.”

On the opposite side of the ball, O’Brien believes that the team needs to come away with timely hits if they want to win more close games.

“Bases loaded or second and third, the two out hitting, that’s a big deal,” O’Brien said. “We’re that one big hit away from really making a difference.”

Dominguez has been harping on timely hits for a while now. Referencing Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this week, the Braves’ head coach believes that kind of spark – like Trea Turner’s grand slam in the semifinals of the WBC – is what this offense is looking for, a game-changing hit that comes at the right time. 

“We had the bases loaded and hit into two double plays,” Dominguez said. “It’s been a constant theme; somehow…someway, we’re just not getting that clutch hit and being able to blow games open. We flew out to the warning track yesterday in the ninth inning with a runner on base, [it] would have tied the ball game. We just haven’t been able to get over that hump, and right now it’s becoming more of a mental issue more than anything else because those guys know what they can do.”

Junior Logan Delgado did whatever he could to get on base for the team, including four walks and an RBI single in the series against Michigan. He believes this team is excited to start conference games this weekend. 

“I think the energy is gonna get picked up and elevated coming in conference,” Delgado said. “Everybody knows Friday night under the lights, conference opener, it’s gonna be a lot of fun and [have] a lot of energy. It fires us up when they have a good home crowd, a lot of people cheering, yelling and stuff like that, I think it will be pretty fun.”

Bradley took a 6-4 loss at Illinois on Tuesday. This game was highlighted by Delgado’s hitting, as he went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a walk, as well as some solid pitching from Edders.

“We go into Friday night 0-0,” Delgado said. “It’s more important about winning the conference, and I think that’s what everyone’s gonna be worried about this week.”

Bradley starts conference play this Friday in Kentucky against Murray State.


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