Baseball bats booming as Braves beat Broncos best-of-three – The Bradley Scout

Jackson Chatterton prepares for a pitch. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

A traveling nightmare, a Grand Slam and 35 runs spotlighted Bradley Baseball’s weekend series in Kentucky against West Michigan. Even after the schedule shuffle, the Braves were able to take two of the Broncos’ three as they kicked off the 2022 season.

Bradley (2-1) was originally scheduled to face Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, but due to bad weather in Peoria on Feb. 17, their flight was canceled and plans had to be changed. Other northern schools traveling south, like the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, had other arrangements, which left head coach Elvis Dominguez scrambling .

Luckily, Dominguez was the Eastern Kentucky skipper, so he phoned some friends and secured himself a court and an opponent to play on.

“I was able to call the sporting director [at Eastern Kentucky] directly and he basically said, ‘Yeah, absolutely, we’re going to make it work,'” Dominguez said. “Western Michigan was in the same boat [as us].”

As Dominguez knew the Broncos coach well, the two were able to come to an agreement to finalize the series at the last minute.

Once the Braves were finally able to play on Saturday, they found themselves trailing 7-4 in the seventh thanks to a Broncos three-run homer. After third baseman Jackson Chatterton threw a run with a single to make the deficit 7-5, the sophomore returned in the eighth, this time with the bases loaded and Bradley trailing by one run.

“I knew I had been struggling with the plate all day before [to that at bat]”, Chatterton said. “I was just thinking, ‘Start the fastball early.'”

The second did just that, sending the first pitch he saw over the right-center fence for his first career grand slam, giving Bradley an 11-8 lead and an eventual win.

“It was a happy accident just coming out of the stadium,” Chatterton said. “Coach always says ‘Hit it straight to the pitcher,’ and I just did.”

Sunday featured a doubleheader, the first of which was a seven-inning affair highlighted by a five-run final frame to give the Braves a 7-2 victory. First-year second baseman Cal McGinnis went three-for-three and hit his first college home run, while starter Jacob Kisting went five innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four in the the rookie’s first collegiate appearance.

“They have a lot of talent. [and] a lot of potential for them to move forward and perform the way they did,” Dominguez said of the two newcomers. “With Cal, he got his first hit on Saturday, and obviously hitting a home run was the icing on the cake. He was Steady Eddie all along. Jacob was the same. He really competed [well] and gave us a chance to win the game.

The third game of the weekend was an offensive clinic for both sides. Western Michigan downed Braves starter Troy Hickey for five runs in the first before junior Connor O’Brien homered to make it 5-1. Both teams scored again, but the Broncos threw a three-point bomb in the top of the third to extend their lead to 9-2.

For the next two and a half rounds, it was all Bradley. The Braves scored 11 unanswered runs on eight hits and six walks, including three for RBI, to take a 13-9 lead.

This lead would hold until the ninth when it would be Western Michigan’s turn to take advantage of mistakes. On the back of three straight batters, two RBI walks, and just two hits, the inning ended with a West Michigan grand slam to complete the eight-run frame. Bradley got a few back late in the set, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 19-17.

“We’ve already played four hours of baseball at that point,” Chatterton said. “Everyone was just a little tired and I guess they got the best of us there.”

As evidence of that fatigue, infielder Peter Hansen was forced to the mound in that final inning, which Dominguez said he had to do in such a dire pitching situation.

“We were outnumbered, especially on the pitching side, so we just need a few guys to carry the load until we get some of those healthy guys back,” Dominguez said. “On a normal weekend, I wouldn’t have done what we had to do, but we didn’t have anyone else. Everyone who entered did really well and I’m really proud of the effort put into the game.

Although he had no success on the mound, Hansen managed to hit a team-leading .625 with a 1.550 OPS in the series while drawing six walks. Sophomores Carson Husmann and TJ Manteufel each had four RBIs while O’Brien led the team with five of his own to cap off the explosive offensive weekend.

The last — and only — time the Braves scored more than 35 points in a three-game series to open the season was in 1956.

“A good pitch stops a good shot, and vice versa,” Dominguez said. “We were lucky [to] capitalize on all his mistakes. We didn’t miss a lot of shots when we had runners in scoring position or when we really needed to distance ourselves and get a few runs on the board.

Next, the Braves will compete in the Music City Challenge starting today in Nashville.

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