PEORIA, Ill. — We’ve reached the half-mile pole of the 2015 college baseball season, and the first seven weeks revealed a few surprises and disappointments.
The Missouri Valley Conference, led by No. 21 Dallas Baptist and No. 23 RPI ranked Bradley might finally have a legitimate national championship contender.
Sure, Bradley hasn’t played one of the strongest schedules to date, but it has beaten Big Ten leading Iowa 5-2 on March 25. This weekend one of the country’s top road teams will battle one of the nation’s top home teams when conference foes Bradley (21-7, 2-1 MVC) and Dallas Baptist (24-6, 6-3 MVC) run into each other for a 3-game set this weekend at Jon & Andy Horner Ballpark.
The Braves are tied amongst the country’s top 100 RPI teams with their 17-5 road record, and their 17 road and neutral wins for fourth in the nation.
Bradley is only playing their second conference series of the year so there will be some grading to do after a few more conference games are in the books, however, the Braves are making waves.
Largely unnoticed this year, Bradley has performed well versus stout competition, and with that in mind, let us take notice that nine of Bradley’s 11 NCAA Division I non-conference foes are leading or are in second place in their league.
Even more note-worthy, is that Bradley was on the road when they played 10 of those 11 teams. Beating tough teams on the road means you’re good, thus the high RPI, and the 12th spot in the Nolan Power Index.
The Braves success starts unequivocally with their pitching. Their starters have come through all year long, and they un-wrapped conference play two weeks ago in that same fashion, with the dismantling of Southern Illinois by the weekend staff of Elliot Ashbeck, Steve Adkins, and Brent Strong.
The three collectively only permitted one run in 22.0 innings, and coincidentally, combined for 22.0 scoreless frames when they shutout McNeese State in a three-game sweep in February.
Ranking 33rd nationally with their .975 team fielding percentage, the Braves starting rotation sits with a 19-6 record by way of a 3.18 ERA.
Don’t be fooled by the Braves bullpen stats, they are incredibly solid. Their 4.57 ERA and 75 hits allowed, is mostly due to one game in which Grand Canyon University touched them for 24 runs on 25 hits in 6.2 innings
Take that game away, and Bradley’s bullpen is 2-1 with nine saves and a 2.25 ERA, with only 50 hits in 80.0 innings (5.6 hits/9 innings), think about that.
Also for closers, the Braves are 21-1 when leading after six innings this year.
Dallas Baptist is going to have a run for their money this weekend.