When Indiana baseball first baseman Scotty Bradley roped a walk-off RBI single down the right field line in his only at-bat of the game on a Sunday afternoon in mid March against Northern Illinois, it may have revived his season.
Coming into the game with a .250 batting average on the year, Bradley had struggled to find regular playing time with a crowded Indiana infield. After taking a redshirt due to a back injury in 2017, and missing almost the entire season, he started and played in five of the Hoosiers first 11 games in 2018.
But since being the walk-off hero against the Huskies, his season has turned for the best and being out of the action a season ago helped him fall back in love with the game.
"Can't really explain that walk off, just a lot of excitement."@sbrads33 delivered a 2-out walk off winner for Indiana baseball today in his only at bat of the game to win 4-3 over Northern Illinois. #iubase pic.twitter.com/RyXcFzAwj5
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) March 18, 2018
“Being on the bench last year watching was pretty tough,” Bradley said following his walk-off single against Northern Illinois. “Everyday you’re sitting there watching the games, it gets a little lonely knowing that you can’t go out there and help. Being away from baseball that long, you kind of re-fall in love with the game, which I was very fortunate to do last year and just comeback this year very excited and I’m a much more motivated player.”
Last year Bradley was unable to help the Hoosiers, but over the last five games he’s been a major contributor to the lineup, going 8-for-12 at the plate with two home runs, three RBIs, six walks and nine runs scored.
Also after his torrid stretch at the plate, he’s boosted his season batting average to .412.
He came off the bench in the sixth inning in game two of the Butler series two weekends ago with Indiana already up 10-0 and promptly sent a two-run home run over the right field wall.
Touch em all @sbrads33
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) March 31, 2018
The next day, Bradley moved back into the starting lineup for the first time since March 4 at San Diego and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances going 2-for-2 with a double, three walks and three runs scored.
“It’s been a bright spot for us, it’s really helped us out because we’ve had some other guys struggling,” IU head coach Chris Lemonis said in a radio interview with Greg Murray on Hoosier Country 105.1. “It’s the hits that are huge, but it’s also the walks and the HBP’s and the long at bats that just help solidify our lineup. That’s something we’re not great at, so putting Scotty in and getting that has been big.”
Bradley has found success by being more selective at the plate and keeping things simple in the recent weeks. He struck out 11 times in his first 22 at-bats this season and didn’t draw any walks.
But now in his last 19 plate appearances, over the last five games, he’s drawn six walks, one hit by pitch and has only gone down on strikes once. At one point he even reached base safely 12 times in a row.
“Just keeping things simple, that’s really what it is,” Bradley said. “Really just slowing things down and do anything to get on base, get a spark going for the team by any means necessary.”
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) April 8, 2018
Bradley’s patience and dedication to getting better paid off this past weekend.
He started all three games against Purdue at first base for Indiana, picking up four hits in the series including a big solo home run in to tie Sunday’s game in the seventh inning and push extra innings.
One of the great strengths of this Indiana team is the amount of depth they have. Bradley knows that first hand as he was pushed to the bench after struggling in the early part of the year.
Now that he’s made his way back into the starting lineup, Bradley is looking to solidify his spot as Indiana’s first baseman and add another piece of depth to the 22-6 Hoosiers puzzle.
“You can’t put your head down and pout if you’re not playing, you just have to keep working and know that at some point your name is going to be called,” Bradley said. “Obviously the work continues every single day, no one is going to feel sorry for you in the game of baseball and you’ve just got to be ready. As of right now, I feel pretty good and I’m just happy to help the team.”