Shockers pull off back-to-back comebacks, sweep Bradley

Grant Cohen

Wichita State was in a similar situation they had been in the last four games, which was playing “catch up” with their opponents. The Shockers, however, were not able to grab a lead at the end of those games, having lost the last four at Evansville and Missouri heading into the weekend series against Bradley. 

 Down 7-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning in game one, the Shockers managed to respond by scoring four runs that set up a walk off single by senior Liz Broyles to end the losing streak with an 8-7 victory. The Shockers came back down 7-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning in game two, scoring nine runs in the fourth inning to take the game and the sweep against Bradley 11-10. Game three was cancelled due to inclement weather on Sunday. 

“With Bradley, you knew that they were a team that swings the bats really well,” WSU head coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “We talked this week about taking advantage of taking opportunities to score as many runs as possible.”

Junior Paige Luellen gave the Shockers a 1-0 lead off of a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning. Bradley responded in the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run, but a wild pitch by the Braves and a single by sophomore Mackenzie Wright gave the Shockers a 3-1 lead. 

A grand slam home run by Bradley’s Maria Schroeder and a solo shot by Katie Habryle gave the Braves the lead in the top of the sixth inning 7-3. The Shockers cut the lead 7-6 in the bottom half-inning thanks to a bases loaded double by WSU junior Ashley Johnson. After a bunt single by junior Kelli Spring, the Shockers tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center field hit by Brittany Fortner. 

“I see some better pitches [at the plate],” Johnson said. “Opponents look past my size sometimes and play me in and gives me an advantage to score runs.” 

A leadoff double and walk for Bradley put runners on first and second base with no outs in the top of the seventh inning, but junior Jenni Brooks finished her complete game by forcing three straight outs without allowing allowing a run. Brooks struck out four Braves batters while only allowing one walk in game one. 

After a walk and a single by Luellen, Broyles hit a single to deep left center field to give the Shockers the victory 8-7. 

“As soon as Cacy walked, my team and I knew I could do this,” Broyles said. “I waited on [the ball] and hit it right up the middle. It felt amazing.” 

Bradley started off game two with a three-run home run in the first inning along with hitting two singles gave the Braves an early 4-0 lead. An RBI single by senior Cacy Wiliams in the bottom of the first inning and a groundout by junior Macklin Hitz to score Fortner from third base, who became the university’s all-time leader for hitting doubles with 54, in the bottom of the third inning cut the Wichita State deficit 4-2. 

Another three-run home run for Bradley extended the Braves lead 7-2 in the top of the fourth inning. Wright and Hitz responded for the Shockers by driving in three runs to cut the deficit 7-5 in the bottom half of the fourth inning. 

A bases loaded single by Broyles cut the Braves lead to one and Johnson gave the Shockers the lead with a two run double. Freshman Laurie Ann Derrico brought in the three final Shocker runs with a home run to left field to give the Shockers an 11-7 lead after four innings. 

“We just have the confidence we could score off of Bradley’s pitchers,” Johnson said. “We knew that our offense would come through and would back up our pitchers.”

Senior Ashlynne Neil and Brooks protected the Shocker’s lead, pitching the last 6.1 innings in game two. Neil struck out three Bradley batters while Brooks only allowed one earned run, as the Shockers got the sweep with a game two victory 11-10. 

“The bottom line is our pitching has to continue to get better,” Bredbenner said. “We are getting everything we can out of Jenni, who is not 100 percent. Neil did a great job of coming in and giving us some quality innings. We are a much better pitching team when we manage walks and home runs.”

Wichita State (23-18, 9-5) moved up to second place in the Missouri Valley Conference, three games behind the first place Drake Bulldogs. The Shockers travel to Springfield, Missouri on Wednesday for a two-game series against Missouri State.