PEORIA, Ill. - Shortstop Jason Leblebijian and right fielder Bob Schuch each hit solo home runs in the eighth inning, helping Bradley (22-16-1) rally for a 4-3 win against Northern Illinois (11-29) Wednesday night at O'Brien Field.
Leblebijian's average had dropped to .237 entering the game, but he broke out of the slump by going 3-for-4 with two runs batted in, finishing only a single shy of hitting for the cycle. He followed Greg Partyka's RBI double in the third inning with a run-scoring triple into the right center field gap to pull the Braves into a 2-2 tie. He added a leadoff double into the same gap in the sixth inning, then lined the game-tying home run, his fourth of the season, onto the grass berm beyond the left field wall.
One out later, Schuch hit his fourth home run of the year into virtually the same location, helping Bradley rally for just their second win this season when trailing through seven innings.
Senior lefthander Tory Doerr turned in a solid start on the mound for the Braves, but was on the hook after allowing three runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings. The Huskies took a 3-2 lead in the seventh when Connor Schomig drove home pinch-runner Kevin Sweeney from second base with a base hit up the middle to end Doerr's night.
Junior right-hander Patrick Flanagan (2-2) relieved got the final two outs of the seventh, then worked around an infield single in the eighth to earn the win. Closer Danny Gifford struck out the side in the ninth to earn his sixth save of the season, the third-best single-season total in school history.
Though the Braves banged out 11 hits Wednesday night, freshman center fielder Max Murphy was 0-for-3 and did not reach base for the first time in his career. Murphy, who also saw his second 11-game hitting streak of the season come to an end, had been on base at least once in each of Bradley's first 38 games this season.
After improving to 11-5 in its last 16 games, Bradley will try to carry the momentum into a big 3-game Missouri Valley Conference series this weekend at Evansville (25-16, 6-6 MVC). The Braves are one game behind the Aces and Wichita State in the MVC standings and 3.5 games behind league-leading Missouri State. Senior left-hander Joe Bircher (5-1) will get the start for Friday night's series opener against the Purple Aces.