WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Designated hitter Greg Partyka drove home Rob Elliott with a bases loaded sacrifice fly with no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, lifting Bradley (9-5-1) to a 3-2 win against Navy (8-8) Thursday evening in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational at Chain O' Lakes Park.
Bradley has won a season-best three straight games, all by one run, and improved to 6-0 in games decided by one run this season. Thursday's victory came in Bradley's first extra-innings game of the season.
The Midshipmen forced a 10th inning by scoring twice in the top of the ninth against Bradley closer Danny Gifford (3-0). Navy used four consecutive 1-out singles to push across its two tying runs, but Gifford's head-up defensive play helped prevent the Midshipment from pulling ahead. Pinch-hitter Grant LaTerza delivered a game-tying single, but Gifford cut off the throw home from left field and cut down LaTerza trying to advance to second on the play. The senior righthander then ended the ninth by catching David Wiedeman looking.
Held in check through the first nine innings, the hot-hitting Elliott led off the bottom of the 10th by legging out an infield single. After Jason Leblebijian was hit by a pitch, Austin Jarvis reached on a fielder's choice play that did not result in an out to load the bases. Partyka lifted a fly ball to center field to plate Elliott in walk-off style.
Navy's ninth-inning rally spoiled another strong start by Bradley senior lefthander Joe Bircher, who blanked the Midshipmen on six singles in his 7.0 innings. Bircher, who entered the game among the national leaders with 38 strikeouts in his first four starts, struck out six and did not walk a batter. Senior reliever Jacob Booden worked around two hits and a walk to pitch a scoreless eighth inning.
Bircher was in position for his fourth win in as many decisions, despite getting only one run of offensive support while he was on the mound. The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Jarvis singled and scored on freshman center fielder Max Murphy's 2-out double. Bradley pushed the lead to 2-0 in the eighth after Leblebijian doubled with two outs and scored on a Partyka single.
The Braves will continue their play at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational with a 5 p.m. (CDT) game Friday against Jacksonville State at Chain O' Lakes Park. Junior right-hander John Nasshan (2-2) is expected to start for Bradley.
NOTES: Max Murphy extended his hitting streak to a team season-best eight games with his fourth-inning RBI double ... Rob Elliott owns two 7-game hitting streaks this season and now has hit safely in 14 of Bradley's 15 games this year ... Bradley has scored first in 12 of 15 games this year and improved to 8-3-1 when scoring first ... Bircher passed Cory Lusk (231 strikeouts from 1995-98) and moved into eighth place on Bradley's all-time list with 233 career strikeouts ... He has 44 strikeouts against just four walks in his five starts this season.