PEORIA, Ill. - Bradley ace Joe Bircher cruised into the eighth inning riding a 4-hitter, but Dallas Baptist (38-16) rallied for three runs in the eighth to earn a 5-4 victory in the opener of a 3-game series Thursday night at O'Brien Field.
Bradley (25-24-1), which has won a school-record 11 1-run decisions this season, dropped its season-long seventh consecutive game, including the last four by one run each.
Though he struck out a season-low two hitters, Bircher (7-3) did move into sole possession of third place on the school's single-season strikeout list by pushing his season total to 104. The 104 strikeouts are the most by a Bradley pitcher since Wyman Carey, who was in attendance Thursday night for a pregame ceremony, fanned the school-record 120 hitters in 1956.
Dallas Baptist started its 8th-inning rally when Ronnie Mitchell singled up the middle with one out. Boomer Collins followed with an RBI triple to pull the Patriots to within 4-3 and Joel Hutter delivered the big blow when he lined his 10th home run of the season onto the left field berm for the decisive score.
Bradley designated hitter Greg Partyka started the game's scoring with an opposite field, solo home run, his team-leading ninth homer, in the second inning. After the Patriots scored two in the third, Chris Godinez started the third inning with a leadoff single and came around to score when DBU committed a pair of throwing errors on a Mike Tauchman sacrifice bunt. Partyka added an RBI ground out later in the inning to the put the Braves back in front, 3-2. Andrew Wasmund pushed the advantage to 4-2 when he lead off the fourth inning with a double, took third on a David Compitello sacrifice and scored on a wild pitch.
The teams will resume their series with a 6 p.m. game Friday at O'Brien Field and will wrap up the regular season with a 1 p.m. game Sunday.