EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Bradley (23-16-1, 6-7 MVC) rode the left arm of pitcher Joe Bircher and the hot bat of second baseman Chris Godinez to a 7-2 win at Evansville (25-17, 6-7 MVC) to a 7-2 win in the opening game of a Missouri Valley Conference series Friday night at Braun Stadium.
Bircher (6-1) allowed two runs, one earned in the first inning, then blanked the Aces on four hits over the final eight innings to earn his fourth Friday night win in five weeks. Bircher walked two, both in the first inning, and struck out nine, pushing his season total to 90 strikeouts and becoming the eighth pitcher in Bradley history to fan at least 90 hitters in a single season. Bircher's 90 strikeouts are the 10th-best season total in school history and are the most since Brandon Magee struck out 101 in 2006.
Godinez went 4-for-5 from his leadoff position, stole a base, scored two runs and drove in two to pace Bradley's 11-hit attack.
Evansville touched Bircher for two runs in the first inning. Eric Stamets drew a leadoff walk, took second on a sacrifice and scored on 2-out single by Kevin Kaczmarski. Chris Pearson drew a second walk off Bircher and the Purple Aces plated a second run when first baseman Jason Hockemeyer reached on an error by his Bradley counterpart, Andrew Wasmund.
Evansville gave one run back in the top of the second after third baseman Jake Mahon threw wild to first on a Jason Leblebijian ground ball, allowing the leadoff man to reach second. Leblebijian came home when Bob Schuch singled through the right side with one out.
Godinez started Bradley's go-ahead rally in the third inning with a 1-out single, then advanced to second when Mike Tauchman followed with a walk. Freshman center fielder Max Murphy plated the tying run with an RBI single to left and Leblebijian put the Braves on top, 3-2, with a 2-out single to center.
The 3-2 score held until the ninth, when the Braves broke the game open with four more runs. Third baseman David Compitello had an RBI single to start the 9th-inning scoring, Godinez followed with a 2-run double, his second 2-bagger of the game, and Tauchman completed the scoring with a run-scoring single up the middle.
The teams will resume their 3-game series with a 2 p.m. contest at Braun Stadium.