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Softball facing pivotal weekend as homestretch approaches

Taise Thompson hits a pitch in a game against Indiana State. Photo via Bradley Athletics.

Bradley (15-13) took two out of three games from conference rival Indiana State last weekend, sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader and dropping the final game 5-4.

“I think we came out really, really hot … we should have took three from [Indiana State],” sophomore infielder Camryn Monteer said. “But I think that we came out really strong.” 

Junior Taise Thompson led the way for the Braves on both sides of the ball, collecting five hits. She was followed closely on the offensive side by Monteer, who added four hits against the Sycamores. In addition to leading the way on offense, Thompson showed up in relief on Saturday, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings and earned the win.

“I thought we actually played really, really well. I felt like every game we played better,” head coach Amy Hayes said.

The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader was a thriller. After playing behind for most of the game, the Braves tied the game at six runs apiece in the fifth inning, powered by an RBI triple from freshman Avry Blume, a double from Thompson and a single from junior Stacia Seaton.

It remained a deadlock heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. Sophomore Lucy Mead provided a spark when she stole second base after reaching on an error. The Braves won the first game 7-6 on a walk-off single from Blume. 

A dominant pitching performance from freshman Camryn Schaller lifted Bradley to a 3-1 win to sweep the doubleheader. Schaller struck out six batters and went the distance for the second time this season.

“I think she’s really finding her stride,” Hayes said.

The Braves played well on Sunday but failed to close it out. With a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, the team was one strike away from victory, with freshman Morgan Radford the same distance away from a complete game. The Sycamores struck with a three-run rally in the seventh inning to take a 5-4 win and avoid a sweep.

“We knew that we had a really good shot to win,” Monteer said. “Finishing the game is probably the biggest lesson that we’ve learned.”

Hayes acknowledged a mistake in the decision-making end of the loss.

“I just probably went one too many pitches on the last day,” Hayes said. “I was grappling with things and I just over-thought it.”

Up next for the Braves is a doubleheader today across I-74 against arch-rival Illinois State. The Redbirds (9-2, 23-6) are currently on top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings and will pose a tough test for the Braves.

“They’re such a consistent program,” Hayes said. “The top of their order is very strong, and we got to make sure we take care of it.”

After today’s doubleheader, the Braves will travel west across the state line to take on Northern Iowa. The Panthers are not too far behind the Redbirds, sitting in third place in the standings. Despite the tough challenge ahead, the Braves are keeping a positive mindset heading into the weekend.

“We’re going to be coming out fighting, and so will they,” Monteer said. “If we come out like we did against Missouri State.”

The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. this afternoon at Marian Kneer Stadium in Normal. The first pitch of the second game is tentatively scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Both games can be found on ESPN+.

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