2014 NCAA Softball Tournament, Columbia Regional: The Bradley Braves are familiar

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In what has become old hat for the Fighting Stubbles, Mizzou hosts a NCAA Softball Regional this weekend. They start their journey to OKC with a somewhat familiar foe (which could be said about every team in the group this weekend).

First and foremost - Make sure you have MADE YOUR STUBBLE DRIVE DONATION!!

For the sixth straight season, the Mizzou Tigers will host an NCAA Regional at University Field. For the uninitiated, this first round is a double-elimination format. The Tigers are the #1 seed in the region (#15 overall in the tournament) and will face the Bradley Braves, who are #4, on Friday evening. Earlier in the afternoon, the #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers will face the #3 kansas Jayhawks.

Saturday morning action will start with the two winners from the previous day. Whoever wins that game, and moves to 2-0 in the tourney, takes the rest of the day off. After that, the losers from the previous day will play, eliminating a squad.

Whoever is left will play the loser from the morning, eliminating another team and setting up Sunday. On Sunday, it remains double-elimination, so even if the 2-0 team loses to start the day, they will play again before a winner is determined. A perfect path is a 3-0 weekend, but it can take as many as four wins to get through.

Clear as mud? Good ... then you are ready. Let's get to the previewin' by taking a look at the only team we know our Tigers will face this weekend, the Braves of Bradley.

Bradley Schedule/Common Opponents

I will say this much for Bradley: they took on a pretty solid out-of-conference schedule this past spring. Now, it did not get them any wins, but it was decent. Losses to (at the time) #24 Cal, #14 Stanford (twice), #4 Oregon, #16 Oklahoma and #17 Tulsa dot the Bradley record, though they fell only 2-0 to the eventual #1 seed in the nation, Oregon. Their best win of the season from a RPI standpoint would come at the Citrus Classic, where they would finish their stay with a 16-4 (5) win against (current) #55 Fordham. In conference, their best win came against #62 Illinois State (though that was the only one of three matchups they took).

Fordham. Illinois State. Citrus Classic. All sound kind of familiar, eh Tiger fans? Turns out, the Braves and Tigers took on a number of the same opponents this year.

  • Ohio State: Bradley loses 5-3, Mizzou wins 7-0
  • Syracuse: Bradley wins 6-5, Mizzou wins 9-7 (8)
  • Fordham: Bradley wins 16-4 (5), Mizzou wins 8-0 (5)
  • Illinois State: Bradley goes 1-2, Mizzou goes 3-0
  • Drake: Bradley goes 1-2, Mizzou wins 9-0 (5)
  • SMS: Bradley goes 3-1, Mizzou wins 5-0
  • Evansville: Bradley goes 3-0, Mizzou goes 2-0

Mizzou went 10-0 in all games against common Bradley opponents, where Bradley went 10-6. Oh yeah, and Mizzou defeated Bradley 1-0 back on Feb. 28th. The Tiger offense would only muster six hits against Jaelen Hull, with Angela Randazzo driving in Sami Fagan for the only Tiger run. Casey Stangel would move her record to 3-1 with a four hit, three strikeout (and no walk) performance.

To sum up, Bradley went 27-30 on the season, 15-12 in the MVC (good enough for 4th). They were 9-16 in away contests and 12-9 in neutral games. They defeated #8 seed SMS to start the Valley tourney, and then upset #1 seed Wichita State before getting past #7 Loyola (who had upset #2 Illinois State in the other semi, as well as #3 SIU in the quarters) to make their second-ever NCAA Tournament.

Bradley Offense

At first glance, the Bradley offense has a few (somewhat) bright spots. They have some consistency, as six players have seen time in each game this year, with all but one starting every game (and the other starting 56 of 57). On the whole, they bat .287 with three regulars over .300 and two others at .299. The lineup and order has changed a bit since when we saw them last in February, so I will use the lineup they had for their MVC Championship winning game last week.

  1. Brianne Joseph (Sr.-LF): Joseph is 2nd on the squad at .318, leading in hits with 61. She is 7 of 9 in stolen bases and does not really show much pop (6 double/2 triples, 0 HR's with a .370 slg)

  2. Alyson Clemente (Jr.-1B): Clemente checks in at .296 on the season and led the team in total bases with 75 and runs scored with 36. She is a free-swinger, with 39 K's on the season (2nd worst) and has no speed in the 2-slot (zero steal attempts)

  3. Maria Groenewegen (RSr.-3B): Groenewegen was a nice addition to the lineup, as she saw action in 52 games and started 37. She led the team in BA at .325, HR's with 8, t-1st in RBI's at 34 and slugging at .569. We are likely going to see her as a DP, as she had 8 PO's and 10 assists, but 5 errors for a fielding percentage of .783. She was 2nd-team all MVC this past season

  4. Madeline Lynch-Crumrine (Sr.-P/RF): Lynch-Crumrine batted .303 on the year and was decent in the lineup across the board with a little power (5 HR's) in her 43 starts. We will get to her pitching numbers later, but it seems like she will bat even if she is in the circle. She was also named 1st-team all MVC this past season, making her the first Brave to receive All-MVC honors in each of her four seasons.

  5. Shannon King (Jr.-2B): One of the two who came in just under .300, King hit .299 and added a little pop (5 HR's) along with 30 RBI's.

  6. Alex Chandler (Sr.-SS): Also at .299, Chandler provided some speed (8 steals in 9 attempts), some pop (11 2B/1 3B/4 HR) and the best eye on the team (25 BB's). She also struck out a team-high 42 times this year.

  7. Kendall Duffy (So-3B): Split time with Groenewegen at 3B and also at C. She hit only .242 on the season, but came on in conference play, hitting .311 there and earning 2nd-team honors.

  8. Mariah Cole (Sr.-CF): Another every-game starter, Cole hit .272 and while she did not have much pop (1 HR), she led the team in steals (9 in 14 attempts).

  9. Brittany Burgess (Jr.-RF): Burgess hit .290 on the year, presumably at the back of the lineup for most/all of it. No real pop or speed, but appears to be able to keep innings going back to the top of the order.

  10. Bailey Basham (Jr.-C): Also played catcher this season, and saw action in 41 games (34 starts). Did not bat much, as she hit .190 in 42 AB's on the season.

Table-setters are OK, but are not designed to pressure the defense nearly as much as MU's are. Middle of the lineup is not without talent or ability, and the backend is not an absolute abyss as some are. They draw an average amount of walks, but do strike out at a pretty decent clip (267 on the season). Speed is missing (28 in only 41 attempts) as well for the most part.

Bradley Defense

85 errors. EIGHTY FIVE ERRORS. A fielding percentage of only .950. This team gave up 61 unearned runs. That is basically one unearned run given up per game. Chandler has 21 herself at SS, while Clemente (12) and King (11) also have found double-digits.

Bradley Pitching

Assuming we see the ace, it means we are looking at Lynch-Crumrine. As mentioned earlier, this would NOT be who the team saw earlier this season, as freshman Jaelen Hull got the call that day (and did quite well if I do say so). Lynch-Crumrine had 33 starts on the year (44 appearances) with a 2.89 ERA in 210.2 innings, good enough for a 18-16 record. She surrendered 204 hits and 126 runs (87 earned). She was a little loose with the control, with 103 walks against 135 K's. Batters hit .247 against her on the season.

As for Hull, she went 7-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 122 innings, meaning her outing against us may have been one of her best on the season. She gave up 150 hits with far fewer walks than her teammate (44), but the K's are also down (48) should we see her in relief. Batters hit .293 against her (though we sure as heck did not).

Overall Thoughts

Though only in their second-ever tournament, I dont think Bradley will shy away from the chance. They have already played us very tough this year, and basically played Oregon even, except for two unearned runs. We've already seen how defense may play a part here, but the point is that I do not think Bradley will be too small for the stage this weekend.

As we discussed last year with Stony Brook, a lesser (perceived or otherwise) opponent brings into the mix the chance to start a #2 pitcher and save innings against the arm of the #1. In last year's case, it worked out fine, though the Tigers only scored the three runs against SBU in their 3-0 win. Nicole Hudson did exactly what you would hope she would do, which was keep Mizzou in the game until the offense showed up (an unfortunate meme we are hoping does not come back this year) and keep the innings away from Chelsea. This year, I would expect to see Casey Stangel take the circle against Bradley, keeping Finucane fresh for the (potential) all-important winner's game on Saturday afternoon. At the end of the day, Bradley has a RPI of 122 and Mizzou has wins over 21 different clubs with a better current RPI. This is a game Mizzou should win and should win easy. But this is the NCAA Tournament and, as we have found in years past, it is never easy.

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