PEORIA, Ill. -- Fresh off a road sweep at Evansville, the Bradley softball team will face a non-conference road test at in-state foe SIU Edwardsville before heading to Wichita, Kan., for a battle for first-place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with a three-game weekend series against Wichita State.
The Braves (14-17 overall, 5-1 MVC) have won four consecutive games and posted a 9-5 record in their last 14 games heading into Thursday’s 4 p.m. game at SIU Edwardsville (11-16 overall). Bradley will be facing the Cougars for the third consecutive year and Thursday’s game will mark the seventh game in the series in the last six seasons. Thursday’s game at SIUE is one of just two non-conference games remaining on the slate for the Braves, who will play at Saint Louis April 30.
The weekend series at Wichita State (18-11 overall, 5-1 MVC) will be a battle for first place with the squads tied atop the league standings with 5-1 conference marks through the first two weekends of the Valley schedule. Bradley has won at least one road game against the Shockers in six of the last seven trips to Wichita, Kan. The teams split a doubleheader last year, which was moved to Edwardsville, Ill., due to weather.
BradleyBraves.com will provide a link to live stats for all four games on the schedule this week. The series at Wichita State begins Saturday with a noon doubleheader and concludes with a single game at noon on Sunday.
Bradley has won five consecutive conference games for the team’s longest Valley win streak since ending the 2009 regular season with five consecutive victories against league squads. The Braves have not had a six-game regular-season win streak against Valley foes since 2004.
Senior Madeline Lynch-Crumrine (Sedro-Woolley, Wash./Sedro-Woolley) has gotten off to a strong start to Missouri Valley Conference play, boasting a team-best .438 batting average with 10 RBI in six Valley games in addition to owning a 4-0 record with a 0.78 ERA in five appearances against league squads. She has helped Bradley to a 9-5 record in the last 14 games by posting a 6-2 record with a 2.44 ERA along with a .333 batting average and 12 RBI during that stretch.
All 10 MVC teams rank among the top 150 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings through Sunday’s games and the Braves have played 18 of 31 contests in 2014 against squads listed in the top 100 of the RPI. Nine of Bradley’s final 23 games are against squads currently ranked in the top 100 of the RPI, including this weekend’s series against #74 Wichita State.
Part of the reason for Bradley’s success of late is the squad’s .307 batting average over the last 14 games. The Braves hit just .239 as a team during a 5-12 start to the year and averaged just 4.0 runs per game, compared to 5.7 runs per outing starting with the win against Syracuse on March 1. Bradley’s pitching staff has also limited opponents to a .243 average and 3.3 runs per game in the last 14 outings, compared to a .291 and 3.68 runs per contest since the March 1 loss to fourth-ranked Oregon.
Senior Brianne Joseph (Post Falls, Idaho/Post Falls) moved into the top five in career stolen bases at Bradley with her 36th and is closing in on the top 10 in school history in both career hits and runs. BU’s active career leader in hits with 145, she needs five hits from moving into 10th at Bradley and is eight runs from ranking among the school’s top 10.
Through games of March 23, Bradley was tied for the national lead with 13 true road games and has matched a school record with 31 games played before the start of April. After the weekend trip to Wichita, Bradley will play its latest home opener since 1995 when the Braves host MVC newcomer Loyola April 5 & 6 at Laura Bradley Park. Bradley is scheduled to play 11 of 16 games in April at home.