Two weekends into the 2020 season, consistency – or lack thereof – is a focal point for the Bradley softball team.
The Braves, sitting at 5-5 after earning three wins in last weekend’s Golden State Classic, have already experienced highs in the season’s first ten games. A win in New Mexico over a ranked Arkansas squad opened the season on Feb. 7, and mercy-rule wins over UTEP and Army have followed.
Yet the highs have not come without early lows. The team experienced run-rule losses in the rematch with the Razorbacks and against San Jose State, and surrendered a late lead against Hawaii on Feb 16. before ultimately falling 8-5.
It has been the quest to find a balance between these peaks and valleys that has become the Braves’ early mission. The team’s performance in California, a state that six current Braves call home, was shaped by early adversity.
“We hadn’t really found our grove yet on Friday,” head coach Amy Hayes said of the team’s effort in the Golden State Classic. “We started off slow against Davis and then found a way to win … [but I] don’t really feel like we put much of anything into the San Jose State game, honestly, so that was a pretty big disappointment.
“But we talked about things that [night] and came back and made some great adjustments the next day.”
Hayes isn’t concerned about the team’s streaky start, given the time to level out the valleys before Missouri Valley Conference play. Bradley is hitting .296 as a group and has a team earned run average of 6.16.
“It’s growth,” Hayes said. “We took a lot of steps forward this weekend.”
After an opening weekend in which Bradley batted a mere .242, the bats came alive as the Braves hit .333 last weekend in California. Especially stout at the plate have been senior Kealia Wysocki and junior Taise Thompson.
“[Thompson] hit over .550 for the weekend,” Hayes said. “She stepped back in to having to play third a little bit because Lucy [Mead] was out this weekend and did a good job for us there. Just real positive in the infield and is a heady ballplayer.”
Hayes also credited the efforts of sophomores Grace French, who earned two wins in the circle, and Camryn Monteer, who stepped up to fill the gap at shortstop created by the absence of sophomore Lucy Mead. Mead, missed the Golden State Classic due to a concussion suffered against New Mexico State the week prior and is expected to return soon.
Production also came from the bottom of the order, which can be attributed to the success junior Vicki Zaluske has found in the ninth spot in the batting order.
“Zaluske has come in and done a good job,” Hayes said. “She hits out of the nine-hole for us and she’s been one of our more consistent hitters and that’s been a bit of a surprise. Not that Vicki can’t hit, but sometimes she’s a little streaky so it’s been nice to see her be really solid for us down there.”
This weekend, the Braves will see action in the Charleston Classic, which was set to begin yesterday, but Thursday’s games were rained out. Bradley will face North Carolina A&T, Appalachian State and Virginia Tech over the course of the weekend.