Bradley’s softball team was unable to come away with a victory this past week, bringing their losing streak, in which their bats have struggled, to six games.
It was the first time that the Braves had been able to play at home all season. Unfortunately for them, the friendly confines didn’t provide the outcome they had been looking for to start conference play.
Opening last weekend’s series with new conference foe Murray State on Friday, Bradley lost to the Racers 5-3. The Braves started strong with an RBI single from graduate Grace French and a home run from sophomore Addie Welsh which gave them the 2-0 lead until the fourth inning when the Racers brought their first run across.
Murray State momentarily took the advantage in the fifth on a double steal of second and home, but the Braves took it right back on a homerun from sophomore Bailey Sample. The Racers got the last laugh by scoring a pair in the sixth to spoil the Braves’ home opener.
“Overall as a team, we are right there,” French said. “We just need to make a few adjustments offensively and defensively and we should be in a good place.”
On Saturday, Bradley lost 2-1 in an incredible pitching duel from both sides that resulted in just 10 hits combined between the two teams. The scoring began in the second inning when Murray State junior Taylor Jackson hit a two-run double, but was barren until the final out
Trailing by two entering the final frame, Welsh cut the deficit in half with a homer with two outs but the comeback ended there.
Both pitchers threw some of the best games in their respective careers. Murray State redshirt junior Jenna Veber went all seven innings with six strikeouts, four hits, three walks and one run allowed in 105 pitches. She improved her record to 10-3 on the year.
Bradley junior Camryn Schaller threw a complete game after pitching two innings in Friday’s game. On Saturday, she allowed six hits, three walks and two runs, racking up eight strikeouts on 113 pitches.
“My changeup was definitely working the best. I struggled recently with the curveball,” Schaller said. “[Head] coach [Sarah] Willis has done a really great job working around that and just cutting it out completely and figuring out what works instead.”
On Sunday, these two teams fought another pitching duel, ending in a 3-0 win and the series sweep for Murray State. Two of the Racers’ runs came in a costly fourth-inning rally where the visitors piled up singles to score the pair. The other five innings of work were hitless for Bradley graduate pitcher Grace French, though Murray State’s redshirt senior Hannah James outdueled her by pitching a shutout.
“Every game this past weekend was a tough battle and we were in it until the very end,” French said.
Despite being spoiled by great pitching performances across the weekend, the team feels it’s hard to be appreciative of it when victory isn’t achieved.
“As a pitcher, there’s always that feeling of ‘I wish I could have done more’, I could pitch a no-hitter and still think I could have done more,” Schaller said. “The difference between this season and last season is just knowing I did everything I could in that moment and gave it everything I had in that moment, and knowing that if something does go wrong, someone else has my back.”
The Braves didn’t perform as they wanted to during their transition from invite games to conference play. After three tight pitching duels, they started conference play 0-3. The tradeoff hasn’t impacted their energy according to Schaller.
“I really love the energy this team’s brought so far, even though obviously we haven’t had the outcomes that we wanted so far in the season,” Schaller said. “I think for the most part it’s hard to tell when we’re down by 12 and when we’re up by 12, we’re bringing the same energy every inning throughout the whole game.”
On Tuesday, the Braves faced off against old conference foe Loyola-Chicago. In the first game of the doubleheader, the Braves lost 2-0 and were no-hit by Ramblers hurler Andie Broniewicz. Schaller pitched the first five innings, allowing two runs, three hits and a walk while striking out five.
In the second game, Bradley fell 10-7 to the Ramblers. Loyola outhit Bradley 15-10, though it ignited the Braves’ bats which had been dormant as of late. The hitting was headlined by the freshman trio of Lauren DeRolf who went 2-for-4, Kierston McCoy who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Austin Comstock going 3-for-4 with one RBI.
Bradley returns to conference play this weekend as they travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa to take on Northern Iowa. Schaller is ready to if her number is called again.
“For me personally, just making sure I’m in a good head space,” Schaller said. “UNI’s a really good hitting team, really good pitching team, just good all around. I’ll be watching film, seeing what their tendencies are as a team, just mentally preparing myself going in.”