Sometimes all you need is a spark to light the fire.
When it comes to Bradley baseball (13-20), that spark may have been the team’s past series victory versus nationally ranked Dallas Baptist, which helped them take two of three in the first series with rival Illinois State (15-19) this season.
“I think the biggest thing is just playing up to our potential,” sophomore Carson Husmann said. “Early on, we were kind of beating ourselves, and [now] we’ve been playing better baseball and it’s led to wins.”
Coming off a high-scoring loss at Iowa on Tuesday, Husmann and company hoped to return to conference play the same way they left it.
Rolling into Normal for the first game on Friday, the Braves and Redbirds struggled to get runs across, as both teams stayed scoreless until freshman Jack Lincoln singled home sophomore Jackson Chatterton to give the Braves a 1-0 advantage.
Husmann added some insurance in the eighth with a two-run shot. The Redbirds would score their only run in the bottom of the eighth, but would fall to the Braves in game one 3-1.
“It felt good,” Husmann said. “[I] saw a slider up and was able to put a good swing on it — can’t beat the feeling there.”
In addition, freshman Jacob Kisting continued his excellence on the season, pitching seven innings of two-hit ball while walking two and striking out six.
“[The] ceiling is pretty high on [Kisting],” head coach Elvis Dominguez said. “We threw him into the water and he has responded like a senior veteran.”
In game two, the Redbirds sought revenge and got it. Scoring six runs in the first two innings, Illinois State blitzed Braves senior pitcher Matt Hamilton. Even more to blame was the Braves’ defense, whose four errors helped the Redbirds bring five unearned runs home.
The Braves’ three runs were no match for the hole they started in, leading them to drop game two by a final of 9-3.
Going into the rubber match on Sunday, the Braves sent senior Nick King to the mound, looking for his third win of the season.
Pitching into the sixth, King gave up two runs on five hits, three walks and six strikeouts and the Braves held a 3-2 advantage when he departed.
Needing some more run support in the ninth, the long ball became the Braves’ best friend, with senior catcher Keaton Rice hitting a clutch three-run shot out to center and redshirt freshman Peter Hansen hitting a solo shot to pour it on. A bases-loaded walk by freshman Cal McGinnis would cap off the five-run ninth and eventually seal the 8-2 win.
“It’s been timely hitting; we haven’t given up big innings because the pitchers have really solidified that for us,” Dominguez said. “We’ve been able to scratch a run here and then find another gap, so it’s really been good fundamental baseball all the way around.”
The team will travel to Evansville next for a matchup between two teams in the middle of the MVC. First pitch between the Braves and the Purple Aces is set for Friday at 6 p.m.
“Every week in the Valley is tough,” Dominguez said. “We need to perform well on the mound. If we can do that, we have a chance.”