LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A trio of Bradley pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout and freshman catcher Austin Jarvis provided the early game-winning hit with an RBI double in the second, leading the Braves (3-2) to a 4-0 win at Arkansas-Little Rock (2-4) in the opening game of a weekend set at Gary Hogan Field.
Bradley built the lead to 4-0 with three more runs in the third. Senior centerfielder Brian Martin got the inning started with a leadoff double and junior third baseman Rob Elliott followed with a hit-by-pitch. Left fielder Mike Tauchman then loaded the bases when he dropped down a sacrifice bunt that did not result in an out. Designated hitter Brad Kimball drove in two runs with a single up the middle, and after Sprout executed the inning's second sacrifice, Eigsti brought home Tauchman with a sacrifice fly to right.
That was all the offensive support Bircher (2-0) needed. The 6-foot-4 lefty allowed three hits and a walk while striking out seven in his 7.0 scoreless innings, lowering his earned run average to 1.29. Bircher faced the minimum nine hitters in his final three innings, retiring the last eight hitters in order.
Junior right-hander Danny Gifford relieved Bircher to start the bottom of the eighth and ran into trouble in the ninth when he gave up a leadoff walk and a one-out single to put runners at first and second. Closer Justin Ziegler relieved and got the final two outs on a strikeout and flyout to complete the shutout for his second save of the young season.
The teams will continue their 3-game set with a 3 p.m. game Saturday. Junior right-hander Jacob Booden (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is expected to make his second start of the season for the Braves.