PEORIA, Ill. -- Senior catcher Kevin Sullivan played hero twice in the last two innings, delivering a game-tying home run in the eighth and a walk-off single in the ninth, leading Bradley (19-29, 7-12 MVC) to a 6-5 win against visiting Indiana State (32-16, 9-9 MVC) Thursday night at O'Brien Field.
The start of the game was delayed 3-hours, 42-minutes by persistent rain and the conditions may have contributed to some wildness by both pitching staffs. While Bradley hurlers Patrick Cooper and Justin Ziegler combined to walk seven Sycamores, four Indiana State pitchers combined for eight walks. Ziegler (2-1) allowed two of Bradley's walks, surrendered only one run on three hits in 4.0 innings of effective relief to earn the win.
Bradley drew leadoff walks in four innings - the first, second, seventh and ninth -- and the Braves scored in three of those frames. Bradley also got leadoff hits in the third and eighth innings, both leading to runs.
In the ninth, senior second baseman Matt Fritz earned his second leadoff walk and third overall free pass of the game. Sophomore third baseman Matt Elliott moved Fritz with a sacrifice bunt and the Indiana State's fourth pitcher, Tyler Browning (1-2) walked junior centerfielder Brian Martin in front of Sullivan. Sullivan's third hit of the game, a line drive into the right centerfield gap, brought home Fritz with the game-winner.
The Braves took advantage of a leadoff walk to Fritz to key a 2-run first inning. Elliott followed with a single through the right side of the infield to perfectly execute a hit-and-run play and push Fritz to third. Elliott promptly stole second, the first of Bradley's season-high six stolen bases in the game, before Martin and Sullivan followed with a sacrifice fly and an RBI ground out, respectively.
Indiana State immediately cut into its deficit with a 2-out rally in the top of the second. Again a walk keyed the run-scoring opportunity as Tyler Graham drew the free pass with two outs, stole second and scored on Levi Ferguson's single to right centerfield. The Braves got the run back in the bottom of the third for a 3-1 lead when Elliott led off with a single, stole second and scored on a Martin single.
The Sycamores again had an immediate answer, closing to within 3-2 in the top of the fourth. Luke Fieser opened the fourth with a double into the left centerfield gap, moved to third on a groundout and scored when Cooper's ball four to Graham sailed through the backstop net. Martin temporarily kept the Braves in front when he charged in from centerfield to make a diving catch, robbing Grgurich of an RBI single to end the top of the fourth.
Indiana State took its first lead in the fifth, opening the frame with a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. Robby Ort delivered a 2-run single to left to put the Sycamores up, 4-3. Cooper recovered by getting Fieser to bounce into a double play and fanning Jeremy Lucas.
Indiana State starter Jacob Petricka retired 11 of the last 12 Bradley hitters he faced before giving way to lefty Kevin Mann to start the bottom of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Brad Kimball worked the new hurler for a 9-pitch walk, then was lifted for pinch-runner Christian Segar. Fritz drew a one-out walk to put runners at first and second and chase Mann. With Elliott facing the third Sycamores pitcher, right-hander Scott Harlan, the two Bradley runners executed a double steal. Elliott responded with a sacrifice fly to force a 4-4 tie.
After getting the first two Indiana State hitters in the eighth, Ziegler issued a two-out walk to Levi Ferguson, setting up Indiana State's go-ahead rally. Ferguson swiped second and scored on Jordan Pearson's flair into right field on an 0-2 pitch for a 5-4 lead.
Sullivan had Bradley's answer in the bottom of the eighth, however, hitting the first pitch of the frame over the right field wall for his second home run of the season.
The teams will resume their 3-game Valley set with a scheduled 2 p.m. game Friday at O'Brien Field and the series finale is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday. Bradley's seven seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony before Saturday's regular-season finale.