WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Freshman designated hitter Derek Sprout was 3-for-5 with four runs batted in, driving home what proved to be the deciding run in the sixth inning to lead Bradley (11-6) to a 7-5 victory versus Akron (3-13) Friday morning at Chain of Lakes Park during the RussMatt Baseball 2011 Central Florida Invitational.
Junior pitcher Jacob Booden improved to 3-0 by allowing only two unearned runs on three hits, while striking out eight in his 6.0 innings of work. The 6-foot-9 right-hander lowered his earned run average to 0.68 and opponent batting average to .191 in five starts this season. Junior closer Justin Ziegler tossed a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his sixth save of the season, already just one shy of the single-season school record.
Bradley grabbed a quick 2-0 lead by scoring twice in the bottom of the first. Third baseman Rob Elliott singled and stole second before scoring on Mike Tauchman's triple to right center. Tauchman, who extended his career-best hitting streak to 10 games, scored when Sprout followed with a single to left.
After the Zips got one run back in the third, Bradley put three on the board in the bottom of the fourth for a 5-1 lead. Right fielder Bob Schuch and center fielder Brian Martin opened the inning with consecutive singles, and after Elliott advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, Tauchman was intentionally walked. Sprout took advantage of the bases-loaded situation with a 2-run single to right. Shortstop Jason Leblebijian added a sacrifice fly two batters later.
Akron loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth on a single, an error and a hit-by-pitch, but Booden limited the damage to one run by giving up only a sacrifice fly. Tauchman helped the effort by throwing a runner out a third from left field to end the inning.
The Braves rode the momentum of the escape to two more runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 7-2 lead. Elliott got the inning started with a walk and stole second in front of Sprout's 1-out RBI single. After Sprout advanced to third on a 2-out single by Leblebijian, the duo successfully executed a double steal for the team's final run.
The Zips roughed up Bradley reliever Nick Gross for three runs in the seventh to make things interesting, but sophomore Andy Johnson got the final two outs of the seventh, then worked around a 1-out single and walk in the eighth, before handing things over to Ziegler in the ninth.
In addition to Sprout's effort, Elliott finished 2-for-2 with two walks, three stolen bases and two runs scored. Schuch also went 2-for-4 as the Braves outhit Akron, 11-6.
Bradley will try to close out its participation in the RussMatt Baseball 2011 Central Florida Invitational on a 3-game winning streak when the Braves face Butler Saturday morning. Bradley will visit SIU Edwardsville Wednesday before making its home debut by hosting the first two games of a 3-game series versus Purdue March 25-26 at O'Brien Field.