PEORIA, Ill. - Senior second baseman Matt Fritz (Northbrook, Ill./DePauw University/Glenbrook North H.S.) belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and junior right-hander Patrick Cooper (Danville, Ky./Des Moines Area C.C./Boyle County H.S.) pitched a scoreless ninth as Bradley (10-17) edged Western Illinois (8-20) 10-9 Wednesday night at O'Brien Field. The win was Bradley's third straight come from behind victory and fourth consecutive win.
The Braves wasted little time getting on the board first. After Bradley junior left-hander Eric Holmes (Wilton, Iowa/Des Moines Area C.C./Winton H.S.) retired the Western Illinois side in order to open the game, Fritz led off the bottom half with a single to center field. A balk by WIU starter Carlos Pinedo moved Fritz to second and sophomore third baseman Rob Elliott (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley H.S.) plated the senior with a single to left.
After taking second base on the attempt to get Fritz at the plate, Elliott was awarded third on another balk and scored when ball four to junior outfielder Brian Martin (Glen Ellyn, Ill./College of DuPage/Lombard Montini Catholic H.S.) squirted away from WIU catcher John Koszulinski. Martin promptly stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by senior designated hitter Kevin Sullivan (Elmhurst, Ill./Oakton J.C./York H.S.) to make the score 3-0.
Freshman catcher Mike Falsetti (Elmwood Park, Ill./Fenwick H.S.) followed with a one-out single to right, and when Pinedo was called for a third balk, the Leathernecks turned to reliever Austin Brough. Freshman first baseman Mike Tauchman (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) greeted the lefty with an RBI single to left center for a 4-0 lead.
Western Illinois answered with two runs on four straight singles in the top of the second and made it a one-run game with a bases loaded groundout, 4-3. The Braves added three runs in the bottom of the second - one on a balk, one on a single by Fritz and the third on a groundout by Martin - to take a 7-3 lead. Western Illinois responded with a two-out rally in the third that produced two runs to cut Bradley's lead to 7-5.
The Leathernecks engineered another two-out rally in the fifth to tie the score at 7-7 and added two more runs on two hits in the seventh to take a 9-7 edge. In the bottom of the seventh, Bradley used a one-out triple by Elliott and an RBI single by Sullivan to cut Western Illinois' lead to 9-8. The Braves had a chance for more offense in the inning, but WIU reliever Randon Lingle pitched his way out of a one-out bases-loaded jam to preserve the one-run lead.
Senior right-hander Kori Jensen (Wichita, Kan./Hutchinson County C.C./Goddard H.S.) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Braves, and after a one-out single by freshman shortstop Jason Leblebijian (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.), Fritz ripped his fourth homerun of the season to left field to give Bradley a 10-9 edge. Cooper struck out two in the ninth for his second save of the season, 10-9.
Fritz finished 3-for-4 with three RBI's and three runs, while Leblebijian recorded his first career three-hit game. Jensen (3-2) earned the victory on the mound for the Braves.
Bradley will return to Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against Creighton at O'Brien Field. Game one is schedule for Friday, April 16 at 6 p.m. Friday's series-opener will also be "Basketball Night at the Ballpark," as members of the 2009-10 Bradley men's and women's basketball teams will be available for autographs and will take part in activities throughout the night.