The Bradley softball team managed one win in a three-game series against Southern Illinois University at Petersen Hotels Field in Peoria this past weekend. After a mid-week 6-5 win against rival Illinois State, the Braves are now 18-25 overall and 7-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
On Tuesday night, down 5-4 to Illinois State on the road, senior Maria Schroeder connected on a two run home run in the top of the seventh to put the Braves up 6-5. Sophomore Emma Jackson came on in the bottom half of the seventh to close out a season series win for Bradley.
In Saturday’s double-header, both teams combined for 37 runs and hit 10 home runs. The Salukis, however, beat the Braves both games 5-4 and 18-10.
Bradley started the first game on a high note, as junior Megan Mahaffy hit a three-run homer to give the Braves the early 3-0 lead.
The lead wouldn’t remain long as Salukis Kyleigh Decker and Savannah Fisher hit solo and 2-run home runs, respectively, to even the game at three.
The Braves tied the game again at 4-4, when sophomore Allison Apke hit a solo home run. But it wan’t enough as Southern’s Katelyn Massa hit a home run off Bradley’s Julie Kestas to give the Salukis the 5-4 win.
In the second game of the double header, after a Saluki two-run home run in the top of the first, Bradley freshman Stacia Seeton responded with a 3-run first-inning homer. Her third home run in as many games put the Braves up 3-2. The home run was Seeton’s seventh this season, tying both Trish Kowalewski in 2005 and sophomore Kealia Wysocki in 2017, for most home runs as a freshman.
Bradley head coach Amy Hayes praised Seeton’s first-inning homer, but cautioned that the team should never get comfortable.
“I think it really sets the tone,” Hayes said. “I think Stacia [Seeton] had a big one early. I think we just need to continue to put that pressure on, though, and not get comfortable.”
The Braves furthered an 8-4 lead in the fourth inning thanks to a single from Mahaffy, a double from Wysocki, a walk from junior Gabby Stoner and a single from freshman Jillian Navarro.
SIU replied quickly with four runs in the top of the fifth to bring the game even, 8-8. Both teams followed up with a run each in the next inning to tie it back up at 9-9.
The Salukis would then begin a nine-run seventh inning to build a comfortable 18-9 lead, and they secured the 18-10 victory.
Hayes said small errors led to bigger problems in their first two losses against the Salukis.
“I think we just had a little let up and misplays,” Hayes said. “I think, as a coach, I was confident in how we were hitting the ball. In game two, the game got a little bit away from us, but we can’t let one mistake roll into four.”
On Sunday, Bradley gave SIU a taste of their own medicine by using a 10-run second inning, to spark their scoring.
The big inning only included six hits. Seeton led the run with another solo homer to break the Bradley freshman single season home run record with eight. Stoner concluded the run with an RBI single to go up 10-0.
Wysocki hit a one-out double in her first plate appearance. As a result, the Braves were able to load the bases and eventually score during their second-inning run.
“I would say it contributed, but I didn’t even get that spot in that inning,” Wysocki said. “I believe it wasn’t only me, but the girls in front of me specifically [that led to the scoring].”
Massa got the Salukis on the scoreboard with a 2-run homer, but Bradley quickly regained its 10-point advantage with senior Maria Schroder’s 2-run homer to go up 12-2.
Southern Illinois pushed for a comeback in the top of the fifth when they were down to their last out. They successfully scored seven runs thanks to a Sydney Jones grand slam and errors in Bradley’s defense to bring it within three runs at 12-9.
Bradley extended its lead 14-9 with two runs from senior Elizabeth Leonard and Wysocki, and spoiled the sweep with a 14-9 win.
Wysocki believed that the Braves’ mentality was better going into game three and was what led to Bradley’s early dominance.
“I think mentality is a lot of it,” Wysocki said. “But, I also think making those adjustments between at-bats instead of waiting until the end of the game is also important.”
This weekend the Braves travel to Valparaiso to play the Crusaders for the first time in Missouri Valley Conference play. The double header starts on Saturday at noon, followed by one game on Sunday at 11 a.m.