WICHITA, Kan. - Wichita State continued its dominance in the series against Bradley (25-20-1, 8-11 MVC), downing the visiting Braves, 7-1, in the opening game of their Missouri Valley Conference series Sunday night at Eck Stadium.
The Shockers (30-22, 8-8 MVC) overcame an early 1-0 deficit with a 4-run sixth inning to earn its 27th consecutive home win against Bradley, a streak that began with the first game of the 1998 series. Wichita State banged out 16 hits, including 11 against Braves ace Joe Bircher (7-2), sending Bradley to its third consecutive loss.
Bircher, who had completed four of his previous five starts, suffered his first loss since March 23 at Southern Illinois by allowing five runs on 11 hits while walking three in 6.0 innings. Despite striking out a season-low three hitters, Bircher did become just the fifth pitcher in Bradley history to strike out 100 batters in a season and moved into a tie for third place on the school's single-season list with 102 strikeouts.
Bradley grabbed the game's first lead when third baseman David Compitello opened the third inning with his second home run of the year. That would proved to be Bradley's only run of the game, however, as the Braves managed just five hits against the Shocker combination of Josh Smith (6-3) and Foster Vielock. Smith worked the first 8.0 innings and Vielock twirled a perfect ninth.
The 1-0 lead held until the sixth inning, when the Shockers finally broke through against Bircher. The first six hitters of the inning reached base on four singles, a double and a walk. Case Gillaspie put Wichita State on the board with an RBI double and Don Lambert put the hosts ahead when he followed with an RBI single.
The teams will continue their weekend series with a 2 p.m. game Saturday at Eck Stadium. Senior right-hander Justin Ziegler (3-4) is expected to face Wichita State freshman lefthander Kris Gardner (4-1).