PEORIA, Ill. - Indiana State withstood a record-setting performance from Bradley ace Joe Bircher by rallying against the Braves bullpen for a 5-4, 11-inning win Friday night in the opening game of a 3-game Missouri Valley Conference series at O'Brien Field.
Bircher struck out seven hitters to become Bradley's all-time leader, pushing his career total to 264 strikeouts. Wyman Carey held the record for more than 50 years with 261 strikeouts from 1957-59. Bircher took a 3-hit shutout into the eighth inning, but a leadoff error opened the door for the visitors and the Sycamores (27-8, 7-3 MVC) took complete advantage.
After designated hitter Jeff Miera reached on the error, Landon Curry followed with a base hit up the middle. Senior right-hander Jacob Booden, who entered the game with a 0.55 ERA and 24 strikeouts in just 17.1 innings this season, relieved Bircher with runners at first and second and no outs.
Booden promptly gave up consecutive RBI doubles to Kyle Burnam and Jeremy Lucas as Indiana State closed to 4-2. Robby Ort followed with an RBI ground out to make it 4-3 and the Sycamores completed the tying rally when Lucas beat the throw home on a Jon Hedges fielder's choice ground ball to second.
After Koby Kraemer walked to end Booden's evening, reliever Rob Kennedy prevented any further damage by getting Ryan Walterhouse to hit into an inning-ending double play on a first pitch check swing liner to second.
Bradley freshman second baseman Chris Godinez was 3-for-6 and belted a 2-run home run in the third inning, launching a shot to left field that the wind carried onto Jefferson Street. Freshman center fielder Max Murphy drove in two more runs with a fifth-inning single that pushed the Bradley lead to 4-0.
While Bradley (17-13-1, 3-4 MVC) touched Indiana State ace Dakota Bacus for four runs on eight hits in 5.0 innings, four Sycamores relievers combined to hold the Braves to no runs on just two hits over the final 6.0 innings. Reggie Hochstedler (3-0) worked the final 3.0 innings to earn the win.
Kennedy (0-2) was equally impressive until running into trouble with one out in the 11th. Kraemer started the winning rally with a single to right field and Walterhouse was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. Shortstop Tyler Wampler followed with a single through the right side of the infield to plate Kraemer and give the Sycamores their first lead of the night.
With its win Friday, Indiana State remained in first place in The Valley standings, one-half game ahead of Missouri State. The teams will continue their weekend series with a 2 p.m. game Saturday at O'Brien Field.