After squeezing out a 3-2 victory over Indiana State on May 12, the Bradley Braves softball team struggled to make plays later in the day and eventually fell out of the MVC Tournament at the hands of the third-seeded Missouri State by a score of 4-6.
“We knew we could beat [Missouri State] and we knew what we needed to do but at the end of the day we just didn’t execute the way we wanted to,” junior Taise Thompson said.
The Braves entered the MVC Tournament as the sixth seed, with tournament host Evansville holding the eighth seed. The Braves were slated to face the winner of #7 seed Indiana State and #10 seed Valparaiso. On Wednesday, the Sycamores would top the Crusaders 9-5 and eyed a matchup with the Braves.
Early Thursday, the sixth-seeded Braves found themselves down a run early as the Sycamores scored first on a throwing error by sophomore Lucy Mead.
The Braves would even the score when junior Taise Thompson walked with the bases loaded in the third. She hurt the Sycamores again in the fifth when she singled in two runs to put the Braves up 3-1. The Braves would give up a homer in the seventh, but they held on for a close 3-2 victory.
“I thought we came out strong against Indiana State and we showed really good grit,” head coach Amy Hayes said.
Sophomore starter Grace French excelled once again, pitching all seven innings and giving up only one earned run.
“Grace does what Grace does,” Hayes said. “She’s a huge competitor for us and she always gives her team an opportunity to win.”
After sweeping Missouri State earlier in the year, the Braves were set for another matchup with the third-seeded Bears later that night.
“I think we both knew it’d be a tough game because we both had the talent, we both had everything we needed to win,” Thompson said.
Thompson once again worked her magic with an RBI double in the first. Missouri State would tie the game at one in the bottom of the inning off an error by freshman catcher Jordy van der Werf. Both teams would again match each other in the third, tying the game at two.
A troublesome fourth for the Braves saw the Bears plate four runs and take a 6-2 lead. The Braves would fight back scoring two more runs but eventually fell to the third-seeded Bears 4-6.
“Errors were just too costly for us to overcome against a super aggressive team like Missouri State,” Hayes said. “I really thought they did all they could that night and our kids gave great effort and never quit.”
The Braves were doomed defensively by giving up six errors combined through the two games Thursday. Through the two games, the Braves gave up eight runs with five of them being unearned.
With the results Thursday, the Braves finish the year 20-22. Despite the exit, Hayes was very proud of her team and had much to say about the seniors who had to fight through a canceled season last year, and an obstacle-riddled campaign this year.
“I’m really proud of our kids this season, I think they did a great job, and just kudos to those seniors for wanting to come to the Hilltop and for the lasting impact they had,” Hayes said.