Bradley softball knocked the Southern Illinois Salukis down a peg this weekend by winning a close series on the road with a one-run differential in all three games.
Everything went well for the Braves in their second series win of the season as the bats connected and the pitching was precise.
In game one on Friday, Bradley won 4-3 and never trailed once.
In the opening frame, sophomore Abbott Badgley hit a ball hard on the ground to third to bring in freshman Lauren DeRolf and get Bradley on the board first.
Keeping the good momentum going, the freshmen duo of Ashley Breeding and Kierston McCoy doubled and hit a bloop single to right field respectively, allowing Breeding to score and putting the Braves up 2-0.
Giving Bradley a run for its money, the Salukis hit a two-run home run, tying the game in the fifth. However, the Braves responded shortly after in the top of the sixth as they got their two-run advantage back. After a single from sophomore Allie Paregien and a walk by junior Jordy van der Werf, Breeding and graduate senior Grace French were able to put the Braves up 4-2 after they both hit singles to bring the two runners home.
SIU could only score one more run in the bottom of the sixth as Bradley went on to win thanks to their contact hitting. Before going up against the Salukis pitching staff, the goal for the Bradley dugout was to get hits and the Braves did.
“Against either of their starting pitchers, [the goal] was to look to attack early in or out [of the strike zone] because they equally did either, and to stay disciplined on the rise ball and the changeup,” Bradley head coach Sarah Willis said.
In the second game of the series, the Braves won a much higher-scoring game with a lot more drama.
Things didn’t start well for Bradley as they let up three runs in the first inning to go down 3-0, marking the first time that the Braves trailed in the series.
“While the start of the second game was not ideal by any means, I used it as a learning tool and switched my plan heading into the second and any inning after that,” junior Camryn Schaller said.
Bradley found some momentum in the top of the third as Schaller singled and was then brought in after French went yard to bring the Braves within one. The Southern Illinois bats stayed hot as they scored yet again in the bottom of the third, extending their lead to 4-2.
Bradley, feeling the pressure, ramped up the offense as Badgley doubled to start off the fourth inning. Following the double, SIU walked two Braves in a row before sophomore Bailey Sample came in to pinch hit and smacked a two-run single which tied the game up at four all.
After SIU took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, it all came down to the top of the seventh for Bradley. Sloppy defense and a lack of concentration from the Salukis filled the bases and sophomore Addie Welsh singled, bringing in the tying run before Schaller got walked to bring in the winning run.
“SIU is a large team, it doesn’t take much talking for them to be loud and get in a pitcher’s head. But I knew this was coming in and made it a point to block out any noise they were making,” Schaller said.
In the third game, things kept rolling for Bradley as they went up 1-0 in the first thanks to a single from McCoy that scored French. Things stayed uneventful until the bottom of the fourth when the Salukis tied the score. This time Southern Illinois kept all the momentum as they put up two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Down by two runs with one inning left to go, Bradley needed some more of that hot hitting that they put on display in the first two games of the series.
However, the Braves were only able to score one of the two they needed to knot the game up from a van der Werf home run, losing the closer 3-2.
Winning their first series in over a month, these wins will definitely serve as a much-needed morale and confidence booster heading into the rest of the season after a couple of lackluster weeks for the Braves.
“I think the biggest thing for them was really just the expectation or really more so the belief that they’re a good ballclub, that they know how to win games and that they know how to execute and commit to a game plan,” Willis said.