Peterson Hotels Field has sat empty long enough. The Bradley softball team has not played on its home turf since May 10, 2019, but that is soon to change.
The Braves will host Western Illinois for a doubleheader today — their first collegiate game in almost a year. The team lost a few key seniors to graduation last year, but they have a deep roster with versatility.
“We have a great group that’s coming back,” head coach Amy Hayes said. “We have a number of players who can play multiple positions and [make] an impact for us.”
Junior Stacia Seeton is just one example, transitioning from the outfield back to first base. She’s a constant threat at the plate, hitting four home runs and driving in 18 runs in 22 starts last year.
Though junior outfielder Jillian Navarro only appeared in 13 games last season, Hayes praised her power at the plate.
The NCAA announced last March that spring sport athletes would be granted an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic canceling their seasons. Because of this, Seeton and Navarro, both seniors academically, have junior athletic standing and can choose to return to the team for a fifth year.
Another impact player Hayes touched on is junior Grace French, who is poised to see the most innings in the circle for the Braves this year. Before her season was cut short, she held the eighth lowest ERA in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“It was frustrating I didn’t get to continue the season, but it gave me something to continue to build off of in the long off-season,” French said. “It was motivation to keep working, but also working on little things to get better.”
Bradley was riding a three-game winning streak entering Valley play before the season abruptly ended.
“We have everything we need this season,” senior Taise Thompson said. “We have the pitching, we have the hitting, we have the defense. We have the trifecta.”
If anyone would know, it is Thompson. One of the senior leaders on this team, she’s looking to fill the offensive hole that seniors Allison Apke and Kealia Wysocki left upon graduation. Thompson was hitting .360 through 21 games, a 40-point jump from her sophomore to junior season.
Statistically, that growth is a positive sign. But to Hayes, the stats don’t matter.
“We try to emphasize that if we bring it every day, we’ll be more comfortable in high-energy situations,” Hayes said. “That’s what happens on game day, everything gets amped up.”
The energy will certainly be high come Friday.
“We want to take advantage of all the opportunities we’re given,” French said. “We know anything can happen at any time, so we want to enjoy the time we’re given on the field.”
For all involved, the MVC has precautions in place to keep players safe and see through to the end of the season.
The end goal is obvious; the Braves want to be holding the MVC Championship Trophy. If anyone doubts this team, they’ll need to answer to Thompson.
“The MVC should be looking out for us,” Thompson said.
The Braves will start their journey toward that goal this morning at 11 a.m. against WIU inside the Louisville Slugger Dome.