DES MOINES, Iowa – Bradley slugged a pair of first-inning home runs to jump out to an early 4-0 lead, but Drake hit a three-run homer with two outs in the seventh to force extra innings and the Bulldogs topped the Braves 5-4 with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth Sunday afternon in the final game of the regular season for both teams.
Senior Marina Groenewegen (Surrey, British Columbia/Elgin Park Secondary/Southern Idaho) put Bradley (24-30 overall, 15-12 MVC) in front with a three-run homer after the Braves opened the game with back-to-back singles. The homer tied Groenewegen for the team lead with her sixth of the year and gave her 32 RBI for the highest season total by a Brave since 2009.
Fellow senior Madeline Lynch-Crumrine (Sedro-Woolley, Wash./Sedro-Woolley) followed the three-run homer with a solo shot of her own as Bradley had a 4-0 lead before the first out of the game was recorded.
Drake (19-31 overall, 11-14 MVC) had bases loaded to open the bottom half of the inning, but Lynch-Crumrine and the Braves got out of the jam without allowing a run. Laura Brewer had a solo homer for the Bulldogs in the second to trim the Bradley advantage to 4-1.
Bradley had a pair of wasted opportunities, leaving the bases loaded in both the third and fifth innings. The Braves still held a 4-1 advantage heading to the bottom of the seventh when Drake rallied for three runs.
Kaitlyn Finneran led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a one-out wild pitch. Megan Sowa drew a walk, but Lynch-Crumrine fanned Brewer for the second out of the inning. Cleanup hitter Rebekah Schmidt belted a two-out, three-run homer to right field to tie things up at 4-4 and force extra innings.
In the eighth, Bradley had a runner at first with two outs when junior Alyson Clemente (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley) ripped a double to right field. Senior Brianne Joseph (Post Falls, Idaho/Post Falls) tried to score the go-ahead run from first on the double, but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Jordan Gronewold drew a one-out walk in the Drake half of the eighth inning and stole second. Lynch-Crumrine struck out the next batter for her eighth strikeout of the contest, but Gronewold scored the game-winner from second on a two-out single to center by Finneran.
Junior Shannon King (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) was one of four Bradley players with multi-hit games, going 3-for-4 to help highlight a 12-hit effort by the Braves. Lynch-Crumrine suffered the loss in the circle to drop to 16-16 on the season.
Bradley finished fourth in the final regular-season Missouri Valley Conference standings for the team’s highest finish in the league race since taking second in 1994. The Braves received a first-round bye in this week’s MVC Tournament and will play the winner of Thursday’s opening round 11 a.m. game between #5 Northern Iowa and #8 Missouri State at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon in Normal, Ill.