PEORIA, Ill. -- After winning a school record 15 regular-season Missouri Valley Conference games and posting the team’s best league finish since 1994, the Bradley softball team will look to continue its winning ways Thursday when the Braves open play at the Valley Tournament which will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Normal, Ill.
Bradley (24-30 overall, 15-12 MVC) finished fourth in the MVC standings for the team’s best league showing since a second-place finish in 1994 and the Braves joined regular-season champion Wichita State as the only two squads to collect at least one win against each conference foe in 2014.
The single-elimination tournament begins Thursday with #5 seed Northern Iowa (28-19 overall, 14-12 MVC) taking on #8 seed Missouri State (27-26 overall, 10-16 MVC) at 11 a.m. The winner of the opening game will advance to face #4 seed Bradley later that day at 4 p.m. for a spot in Friday’s noon semifinal at Illinois State’s Marian Kneer Stadium against regular-season champion Wichita State (34-20 overall, 21-6 MVC).
Bradley will be making its third MVC Tournament appearance in the last four years and 22nd overall. The Braves own a 19-16 record when playing in a Valley Tournament held in Illinois, winning the 2009 title in East Peoria in addition to a trio of runner-up finishes in 1996 (Normal, Ill.), 1986 (East Peoria, Ill.) and 1985 (Macomb, Ill.).
A free video stream of Thursday’s and Friday’s games will be available at http://www.valley-live.tv/ with BradleyBraves.com providing links to live stats. Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. championship game will be televised on FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports Indiana, FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX College Sports, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and ESPN3 outside the league’s five-state footprint of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
Bradley is 3-2 in the MVC Tournament against Northern Iowa, last facing the Panthers in the post-season during BU’s 2009 title run. The Braves took two of three games from preseason league favorite Northern Iowa April 26 & 27 in the final home stand of the season.
The Braves have faced Missouri State in their opening round game in each of the team’s last four MVC Tournament appearances and the Bears are the most frequent opponent for Bradley (13 previous games) in the post-season. Bradley opened the regular-season MVC schedule by taking two of three games from the Bears in Springfield, Mo.
Senior Marina Groenewegen (Surrey, British Columbia/Elgin Park Secondary/Southern Idaho) has helped highlight a Bradley offensive attack which has scored the most runs (236) since 1995. A .330 hitter this season, she has a team-high 32 RBI which is the eighth-best season total in school history. Groenewegen hit .406 against Missouri Valley Conference squads and hit five of her team-best six homers in conference action.
In the circle, senior Madeline Lynch-Crumrine (Sedro-Woolley, Wash./Sedro-Woolley) is among the top five in the league in wins (16), ERA (2.97), innings pitched (193.0) and strikeouts (125). She had a conference-best 11 wins in Valley play to go with a 2.65 ERA in addition to boasting a .316 batting average with 16 RBI against Valley squads.
The Braves enter the MVC Tournament with school season records for walks (157) and home runs (34), while collecting the most regular-season victories (24) since 2007.