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Rapid Recap: Softball defeats the top of the OVC by slim margins in doubleheader

Junior Baily Sample and Senior Camryn Schaller congratulate each other after their team’s win against Eastern Illinois on April 24th. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

Against the top of the Ohio Valley Conference, Bradley softball, hanging onto victory by a thread, used their bullpen to efficiently sweep the series against Eastern Illinois. 

The Braves (25-23) hosted Eastern Illinois (32-16) in a mid-week doubleheader at OSF Healthcare Field.

Braves halt late comeback efforts

Bradley wasted no time getting going, as junior Sydney Kennedy singled to shortstop, advancing sophomore Lauren DeRolf to draw first blood against the Panthers in the first inning. The home team then exploded the next inning, scoring three runs with junior Abbott Badgley’s double to bring home the final two runs of the inning. 

With an early 4-0 advantage, the Braves kept the Panthers quiet for the opening three innings. Badgley replaced Kennedy on the mound after only two innings. 

Despite their early hitting struggles, the Panthers responded in the fourth inning with a two-run single from Briana Gonzalez that tore apart the infield. Eastern Illinois maintained that momentum as a sacrifice fly led another Panther home, cutting Bradley’s lead to one. 

Adding some insurance in the fifth, sophomore Kierston McCoy homered for the sixth time this season, giving the Braves a 5-3 lead. Both teams were quiet in the sixth. However, in the final inning, the Panthers had a chance to tie the game. 

With one out remaining, with runners on second and third and Gonzalez up to bat, senior Camryn Schaller had her hands full. With the pressure at its highest, Schaller struck out Gonzalez, leaving the Panthers coming up short in the end. 

Bullpen battle

In a flip of the script, Eastern Illinois attacked the scoreboard first, taking an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of the second game. Struggling on the offensive end, the Braves bats didn’t wake up until the third when sophomore Austin Comstock singled up the middle to knot the game up at one. 

After loading the bases, the Braves tagged two more on the board before pitcher Olivia Price was taken out of the inning. Eastern Illinois was only able to add one other run to their score, losing the second game of the day by a one-run margin. 

There was no need to call anyone from the bullpen as Schaller pitched all seven innings, getting a season-high eight strikeouts and allowing only four hits. 

The road to Normal

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Braves as they face current third seed, Belmont. While the Bruins (27-16, 13-8 MVC) have lost their last four games, they were against top-tier competition. After getting swept by conference leaders Southern Illinois, Belmont lost against a ranked Tennessee team (35-8). 

As the Missouri Valley Conference Championship approaches, the Braves must take advantage of their last two series against Belmont and Illinois-Chicago before heading to Normal.

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