After a series sweep against Missouri State last weekend, the Bradley softball team faced off against Missouri Valley Conference rival Loyola-Chicago this past weekend, losing two of three close games.
“Loyola played really well this weekend at home,” Bradley head coach Amy Hayes said. “From the scouting we saw, they made adjustments and played really well against us. I don’t think we were running on all cylinders on Saturday.”
In the first game of the Sunday doubleheader, the Braves struck first with a solo shot to left field by freshman catcher Avry Blume that put the Braves up 1-0 after the first inning. The Braves gave up their first run of the game on two errors made in the bottom of the second inning, allowing Loyola to tie the game at 1-1.
In the top of the third inning, sophomore third baseman Camryn Monteer singled to left field to open the inning. Blume followed up her solo shot with a two-run shot to left field to put the Braves up 3-1. In the bottom of the third inning, the Braves gave up three runs on four hits and squandered the lead to Loyola, falling behind 4-3.
Bradley went hitless after the third inning, while the Ramblers picked up an insurance run in the fourth on BU’s third error of the game to pick up the 5-3 victory.
In game two, both teams had trouble scoring until the late innings. After five scoreless innings, the Braves opened the top of the sixth inning with four consecutive singles, scoring two runs. The Braves went up 3-0 after junior outfielder Taise Thompson laid down a successful sacrifice bunt.
The Braves allowed consecutive singles to open the bottom of the sixth inning, followed by a walk and an RBI single to put Loyola on the board.
Monteer continued her great day offensively by hitting a triple in the top of the seventh inning to make it a 4-1 game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Loyola made things a bit closer after the Braves allowed two runs to score on two hits and an error. The Braves were able to squeeze out a 4-3 victory, splitting the twinbill.
“The goal was to get back on track on Monday, and we were right there,” Hayes said. “But it’s not one play, it’s not one hit; you just have to continue to try to put a complete game together. In the Missouri Valley Conference, it’s anybody’s game on any day.”
In the final game of the series, the Braves fell behind in the bottom of the third inning after a throwing error allowed the leadoff walk to come around and score.
The Braves’ offense came alive in the top of the fifth inning when Monteer opened the inning with a leadoff single. Sophomore Lucy Mead followed with a bunt single that moved Monteer into scoring position. Blume hit into a double play that left Mead on second base, but junior Vicki Zaluske hit a two-run home run to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Loyola loaded the bases with two outs and scored on the Braves’ second error of the game, tying the game at 2-2 to force extras.
In the ninth, the Braves allowed back-to-back two out singles, putting a runner in scoring position for the Ramblers. Loyola capitalized, scoring the game-winning run on the Braves third error of the game, losing a close game by a score of 3-2.
Through an up-and-down season for the Braves, Monteer has been one of the team’s brightest stars. She has a slash line of .386/.443/.456 and has only struck out six times this entire season.
“My job is to have a quality at-bat and go up there and make sure I’m doing the small things,” Monteer said. “[I’m] just trying to make contact with the ball and make them make a play. Putting the ball in play is what I’m supposed to do.”
“The growth in her game has really been about how she regulated herself,” Hayes said. “She’s very hard on herself, a bit of a perfectionist. Her work ethic is there for that, but we do play a game of failure, and sometimes we have to understand that she’s done everything she could and it just didn’t work out.”
The Braves look to bounce back this weekend as they head back home for a tough three-game series with conference rival Indiana State, who has won seven of its last eight games and is 7-5 in conference play.
“After our last loss, we just realized we have to be confident,” Monteer said. “We have to be confident in what we’re doing and we have to show that against Indiana State this weekend. We just have to find that consistent ground. We’re a good team; we just need to show that and show how strong of a team we are and keep that going the rest of the season.”
With the final month of the season looming, the Braves are focused on the present.
“We’re not looking past Saturday’s doubleheader, first of all,” Hayes said. “We have to be able to take care of Indiana State on our field… At times, we’re just overdoing it and making the game much more difficult than we need to. They just need to trust in what they do and have confidence in themselves.”
The first game of the series will be Saturday at noon, followed by the second game at 2:30 p.m. The series will conclude on Sunday at 11 a.m.