Braves claim their first MVC Tournament title
Jacqueline Vitale and Miriam Wegmann each hit solo home runs and Amanda Clack robbed Creighton's Bailey Dawson of a potential game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to highlight a 2-0 Bradley win over the Bluejays in the championship game of the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship at the EastSide Centre. The tournament title is the first for the Braves and Bradley receives the MVC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Head Coach: Bradley University
A former Bradley assistant coach and Decatur, Ill., native, Amy Hayes returned to The Hilltop in the summer of 2008 and has led the Braves to the first two NCAA Tournament appearances in school history during her eight years on The Hilltop. A 1992 graduate of Evansville, Hayes is beginning her ninth year as Bradley’s head coach and 16th overall as a collegiate head coach.
The 10th coach in program history, Hayes and the Braves are coming off three consecutive top-six league finishes since the first four years as members of the Gateway Conference (1984-87) and Bradley has combined for 50 conference victories over the last four years to tie for the second most Valley wins in a four-year span among any Bradley athletic program.
Hayes owns a school record 84 MVC victories and her 165 career wins on The Hilltop rank second all-time. Recently, the 2014 campaign resulted in the best conference finish (4th) since taking second in 1994, the most Missouri Valley Conference wins (15) in program history, the team’s second MVC Tournament title and second NCAA Tournament appearance.
Assistant Coach: Bradley University
Recent Bradley graduate Rachel Huggins joined the Bradley Softball coaching staff in August 2016 as a volunteer assistant and is in her first season as a coach with the Braves after wrapping up her playing career on The Hilltop in the spring of 2016.
A second-team All-MVC performer as a senior, Huggins slugged a school season record 12 home runs as a senior and was named the team’s MVP. Her team-best 39 RBI tied for the fifth-best season total in school history and her .603 slugging percentage as a senior ranks third.
After starting a total of 17 games her first three seasons, Huggins started 47 of 48 games at designated player in 2016 and hit .300 with eight home runs in MVC play in addition to tying the Bradley mark for RBI in conference games by driving in 24 runs.
Assistant Coach: Bradley University
Former Cal State Fullerton standout Desiree Ybarra is the newest addition to the Bradley Softball coaching staff, with 11th-year Bradley head coach Amy Hayes announcing the former professional and current member of the Venezuela National Team will serve as an assistant coach for the Braves starting with the 2019 season.
A California native, Ybarra spent the 2018 season as an assistant coach at Rhodes College, helping the Lynx to the first conference tournament championship appearance in program history in her lone season at the Memphis, Tenn., school.
Ybarra played professionally in both Australia and Italy in both 2016 and 2017 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton in 2016 with degrees in both human services and sociology. This summer she pitched for the Venezuelan National Team at the 2018 Central American Caribbean Games in addition to the Women’s Softball World Championship, which concludes Sunday.
Volunteer Assistant Coach: Bradley University
Rich Younker joined the Bradley Softball coaching staff in the summer of 2018 as a volunteer assistant coach and is in his first year on The Hilltop.
A Taylorville, Ill., native, Younker boasts three decades of playing experience in men’s fastpitch; helping his teams to eight Amateur Softball Association (ASA) state championships and a pair of top-three ASA national finishes in 1979 (2nd) and 1980 (3rd).
Younker also played at the international level, taking part in four International Softball Association Tournaments in addition to six ASA national tournaments. He was named the ASA Most Valuable Pitcher for the state of Illinois in 2006 and earned ASA All-State honors in 1986. Younker started in men’s fastpitch with the Taylorville Blues and also had playing stints with the Taylorville Bob Ridings, Nokomis Ronchetti District and Cerro Gordo Merchants. Younker resides in Morton, Ill., and has two children: Claire, a sophomore on the women’s soccer team at Illinois Central College, and Gabe.