The Bradley softball team led off its season with a bang at the Troy Cox Classic in New Mexico.
Wins over a ranked Arkansas squad and Texas El-Paso were highlights in a weekend that saw several Braves step in a myriad categories. Leading the charge in those two victories was senior pitcher Emma Jackson, who only allowed 11 hits and five earned runs in her three starts on the weekend.
Providing the spark the Braves needed at the plate were juniors Stacia Seeton, who tallied two home runs over the weekend, and Sydney Young, who led the team with five hits through its first five games.
Young’s speed is a key component of the Braves offensive attack.
“She’s not quite a triple threat in the sense that she doesn’t swing away that much,” Bradley head coach Amy Hayes said. “She can power slap and drop a bunt or do a soft slap or something. Defensively, they never know where to go … Her speed makes her so exciting and lethal.”
Despite her speed advantage being hampered by recent rule changes, she has worked through it, according to Hayes.
“Her battle, really, has just been to trust herself, I think, and keep herself in the box. Our rules have continued to change for slappers and they’re a little more limiting, so she’s worked really hard,” Hayes said.
The Braves began their season on Feb. 7 with a 3-2 win against 20th ranked Arkansas. Jackson surrendered one earned run and allowed five hits in the victory, which Hayes referred to as huge for the program.
The Arkansas win marked the first leg of a Friday doubleheader, the latter game of which the Braves lost to tournament host New Mexico State, 13-4. The Aggies cruised to a win after tagging Braves freshman Morgan Radford for five hits and two earned runs in just over an inning of work.
“She throws hard,” Hayes said. “She just has to know she can do it. She has a ton of talent in there … she’s gonna have to grow a little bit and realize that she can absolutely be a dominant division I pitcher and she can do that this year.”
The Braves dropped two games Saturday; an 8-1 decision versus Nebraska and a 12-1 loss in a rematch with Arkansas. From there, the team was able to shake off the rust and bounce back strong for a 10-0 win against UTEP before embarking on the trip back to Peoria.
Jackson tossed a two-hit shutout in the five-inning win, while senior Kealia Wysocki and Seeton both blasted home runs to carry the offense.
The Braves now turn their attention to the Golden State Classic in California this weekend. Bradley will face five mid-major opponents over the course of the weekend, including a tilt with Mountain West opponent Hawaii on Sunday.
“I think it’ll be a good weekend for us,” Hayes said. “UC-Davis and Army, I think, stumbled a little bit their opening weekend. San Jose is always, you don’t know what you’re going to get with them … they come to play and so you’ve got to be ready to go. And then Hawaii is always a quality team.”
Bradley opens the Golden State Classic with a game against UC-Davis today at noon.