OMAHA, Neb. -- Creighton spoiled Bradley pitcher Joe Bircher's home coming, tagging the Braves hurler for three runs in the first inning and the Bluejays never trailed in a 7-3 victory in the opening game of a 3-game Missouri Valley Conference series Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Bircher (5-4) contributed to his own troubles Friday, committing a throwing error on a Bluejay sacrifice that led to a pair of unearned runs in Creighton's opening rally. The Bluejays (29-10, 7-3 MVC) did plenty of damage on their own, however, pounding out 14 hits to take over sole possession of first place in The Valley standings, one game in front of a 4-way logjam for second place.
Each time the Braves (20-20, 2-8 MVC) tried to chip away at the deficit, the Bluejays immediately got the run back. Bradley scored one in the third to pull within 3-1, only to give the run back in the bottom of the third. The Braves closed to within 4-2 in the seventh, but Creighton answered with two in the bottom half, and the teams again traded single runs in the eighth to complete the scoring.
Each of the top three hitters in the Bradley order - Rob Elliott, Jason Leblebijian and Mike Tauchman - went 2-for-5 to spearhead a 10-hit attack by the visitors. Elliott and Tauchman each stole a base, pushing Bradley's league-leading season total to 78, equaling the second-best single-season total in program history. Elliot's steal was his 24th of the year, moving him into a five-way tie for third place on the school's individual single-season steals list.
The teams will continue their weekend series with another 6:30 p.m. game Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Junior lefthander Tory Doerr (2-1) is Bradley's scheduled starter.