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Braves set a program record, split series at Missouri State

Dan Bolt draws a walk in a game in 2019. Photo via Bradley Athletics.

Bradley traveled to Missouri State last weekend and split two of the four games, losing by a single run in each loss. 

The Braves were jumped on in the ninth inning in both games, with Grant Jasuel on the mound. A hit batsmen brought home the winning Missouri State run in game one while the Bears’ Mason Hull singled home the winning run in game three.

Other than that, it was all Bradley. 

Matt Hamilton led the way on the mound for the Braves, pitching a complete game in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader.

“That was huge because we traveled not expecting to be in that situation,” head coach Elvis Dominguez said. “We went in without two of our top arms in Dalton Mall and Brooks Gosswein. Starting Friday, it became a bullpen series.”

Hamilton went all seven innings in a shortened game one of the twinbill, striking out three while only allowing five hits and one earned run. 

The offensive production didn’t slow down those two games either. The Braves combined for 20 runs in games two and four, including a moonshot by sophomore Connor O’Brien. O’Brien’s three-run homer put the Braves up nine, sealing the fate of the Bears.

“It felt great off the bat,” O’Brien said. “I was looking for a fastball up, and that’s what I got. That’s the farthest I hit a ball in a long time.”

O’Brien’s third home run of the year puts him one short of the four he hit his freshman year and helped push his average to .400, putting him in the top 50 of all college players. He finished the series seven for 12 at the plate, tallying four RBIs and a double on top of his round tripper.

It was game four of the series that the Braves stamped their name in the program record books, walking 17 times. In total, the Braves gained 29 free base runners through the series, walking 12 times in the first three games combined.

“I have never seen Missouri State do that [in] any given game,” Dominguez said. “Their pitching has always been one of the top staffs in the conference, and to see their staff struggle like that was really very surprising.”

Bradley was able to score off those walks, but not everyone who got on base crossed the plate. The Braves left 36 runners on base between the four games last weekend.

A split against Missouri State puts the Braves at 8-11 on the season, preparing to welcome Evansville for the first home series of the season. Dozer Park will host MVC baseball for the first time in 697 days.

“We’re all very excited,” O’Brien said. “We got a lot of families coming out. For the fourth and fifth year guys, this is the time to really soak it all in.”

That speaks true to longtime lineup staples like seniors Brenden Dougherty and Dan Bolt. But, it’s not time to be sentimental yet. The Braves know they still have a long road ahead of them and hardware to play for. A fresh start awaits at home this weekend.

“Our whole philosophy is to throw strikes and play good defense,” Dominguez said. “We have to be able to compete on the mound. If we can do that, it gives us a chance and sets the tone for the rest of the day and the rest of the weekend.”

Game one of this weekend is set for tonight as the Braves play host to the Evansville Purple Aces. The first pitch is set for tonight at 6 p.m. at Dozer Park.

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