PEORIA, Ill. - Donning commemorative pink uniforms in honor of breast cancer awareness on the day of Peoria's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, karma was working for the Bradley Baseball team Saturday afternoon at O'Brien Field. After taking the first game, 7-1, the Braves (17-25) rallied for three runs in their final at-bat for a 3-2 win in the nightcap against SIU Edwardsville (12-33).
Winners of a season-best five straight, the Braves will try to extend their streak when they venture south to complete the four-game weekend series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader Sunday at SIU Edwardsville.
Game 1 Recap - Bradley 7, SIU Edwardsville 1
Sophomore lefthander Joe Bircher evened his record at 4-4 by tossing his second complete game of the year and the first two Bradley hitters, Matt Fritz and Rob Elliott, combined to go 5-for-7 with five extra base hits and four runs scored, leading the Braves to a 7-1 victory.
Bircher surrendered seven singles and was never really threatened until the seventh inning, when the Cougars loaded the bases with three straight, 1-out singles. Pinch-hitter Thad Hawkins ruined Bircher's shutout effort with a sacrifice fly, but Bradley's offense made sure that single run would not affect the outcome of the game.
Fritz drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the first, immediately stole second and scored on a one-out, hit-and-run single to left field by Brian Martin. Freshman Mike Tauchman led off the second inning with a towering home run that hit high off the screen protecting Adams Street, well beyond the right field wall. Two outs later, Fritz tripled into the right centerfield gap and Elliott brought him home with a sharp double just inside the bag at third base for a 3-0 lead.
The Braves tacked on a single run in the fifth when Elliott opened the frame with a triple and scored on a soft, 1-out single by catcher Kevin Sullivan. Bradley broke the game open with their final three runs in the sixth. Fritz and Elliott followed an RBI single from shortstop Jason Leblebijian with back-to-back doubles off the wall in right centerfield and left field, respectively, pushing the advantage to 7-0.
SIUE starter Dustin Quattrocchi (4-6) struck out seven in his complete-game effort, but the soft-tossing lefthander surrendered seven runs on 10 hits in his 6.0 innings of work.
Notes: Martin and Sullivan successfully executed a double-steal in the first inning ... The play resulted in the first career stolen base for Sullivan, a third-year senior catcher for the Braves ... Meanwhile, the double-steal was Martin's 21st stolen base of the season, moving him into a four-way tie for sixth place on Bradley's single-season list (Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett is part of that four-way tie) ... Although the teams combined for 17 hits, the 7-inning game took only 1-hour, 39-minutes to complete.
Game 2 Recap - Bradley 3, SIU Edwardsville 2
Bradley catcher Kevin Sullivan came through with a 2-out, bases-loaded game-tying single and when SIU Edwardsville centerfielder Adam Eggemeyer's short-hop throw scooted by third baseman Zach Hawkins, Brian Martin raced home with the dramatic winning run as the Braves rallied for a 3-2 victory in the nightcap.
Junior right-hander Patrick Cooper (4-3) turned in a dominating complete-game performance, allowing only three hits and striking out six with no walks in his 7.0 innings of work. But by surrendering two runs, one earned, in the third inning, Cooper appeared headed for the loss. SIU Edwardsville starter Josh Malin (1-6) was up to the challenge through six innings, keeping the Braves off the board by allowing five hits and striking out four.
Malin did not have enough in the tank to fight through the seventh, however. Designated hitter Jordan Colvin started the rally with a leadoff double down the left field line. After pinch-hitter Phil Kaiser grounded out, Matt Fritz dropped a single in front of right fielder Thad Hawkins to put runners at the corners with one out. Rob Elliott popped out to short for the second out, but Malin walked Martin on four pitches, prompting a mound visit by SIUE coach Gary Collins, who elected to allow his junior right-hander to remain in the game to face the left-handed hitting Bradley catcher. Sullivan delivered with a sharp single past a diving shortstop to tie the game. With Martin trying to go from first to third, Eggemeyer threw to third, but his throw hopped by Hawkins and rolled toward the backstop, allowing Martin to trot home with the winning run.
SIU-Edwardsville struck first, taking a 2-0 lead on a pair of runs in the top of the third inning. Eggemeyer laced a 2-out, RBI double down the left field line for the first extra-base hit of the day for the Cougars then came around to score the second run when Bradley first baseman Mike McMillan was unable to dig out a one-hop throw from shortstop Jason Leblebijian on a routine ground ball by Mitch Matecki.
Notes: Colvin extended his hitting streak to four games with his seventh-inning, leadoff double ... With three RBI's on the day, Sullivan took over the team lead (32) ... With the first pitch of the first game delivered at 1:59 p.m., the entire doubleheader took only 3-hours, 47-minutes to play.