MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Senior second baseman Rob Elliott extended his hitting streak to nine games by going 3-for-5 with a run scored and the go-ahead RBI and senior lefthander Joe Bircher (2-0) struck out 10 in 7.0 innings, leading Bradley (4-3) to a 6-2 win at Memphis (4-5) in the opener of a 3-game weekend series Friday at FedEx Park.
Bircher turned in his second straight impressive outing of the early-season by allowing two runs on six hits in his 7.0 innings. The Missouri Valley Conference active leader with 207 career strikeouts entering the game, Bircher moved into sole possession of ninth place on Bradley's career list with 217 strikeouts and he did not walk a batter.
Memphis came into the game on an emotional high after earning a 7-6 win Wednesday night at Mississippi State, but the Braves jumped out to the quick lead when left fielder Mike Tauchman drew a one-out walk in the top of the first, stole second and scored on designated hitter Greg Partyka's 2-out single up the middle.
Bircher cruised through the three innings, before a leadoff double in the bottom of the fourth came back to bite him. Bircher limited the damage with consecutive strikeouts, but Jacob Wilson's 2-out single knotted the game at 1-1.
The teams exchanged single runs in the fifth - Tauchman delivered an RBI single, while Adam McClain countered with a run-scoring infield single for Memphis - before the Braves broke the game open with four unearned runs in the top of the seventh.
Third baseman Curtiss Bunch started the rally by reaching on a 1-out error. Elliott followed a Max Murphy single with a base hit to left field to bring Bunch home with the go-ahead run. After both baserunners advanced on the throw home, Tauchman drove in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly. Shortstop Jason Leblebijian reached on a fielding error in left field and advanced to third on the play as Elliott scored. Leblebijian then scored the inning's fourth run on a passed ball for the 6-2 lead.
The defensive breakdown by the Tigers spoiled a solid pitching performance by Memphis starter Sam Moll (1-1), who suffered his first loss of the season, despite allowing only one earned run and striking out nine in his 7.0 innings.
Junior reliever Rob Kennedy made the 4-run cushion stand up, relieving Bircher to start the eighth and not allowing a hit to any of the eight batters he faced.The teams will resume their 3-game series with a 2 p.m. contest Saturday at FedEx Park. Bradley junior right-hander John Nasshan (2-0, 2.84 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Memphis ace right-hander Dan Langfield (2-0, 0.00 ERA), who has yet to allow a run and has struck out 18 in this first two appearances of the season.