PEORIA, Ill. - Freshman closer Matt Dennis earned the win by throwing 5.2 strong innings in his first career start and senior catcher Austin Jarvis drove in the deciding run in his final game at Dozer Park, leading Bradley (23-25, 5-16 MVC) to a 2-1 win against Indiana State (35-14, 14-7 MVC) Saturday afternoon in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The win ended Indiana State's hopes of claiming a share of the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference championship and set up a rematch against the second-seeded and host Sycamores in the MVC Baseball Championship Tuesday at Bob Warn Field. The two teams will play a fourth consecutive game against one another in the fourth first-round game, a scheduled 7:30 p.m. (EST) start in Terre Haute.
Dennis (4-2), who made his first 19 appearances of the season in relief, limited Indiana State to one run on four hits in his longest career outing. Lefty Cameron Roegner finished off the strong pitching effort by tossing the final 3.1 innings. He worked around four hits to earn his first save of the season.
Bradley took the early lead after getting four of their first five hitters on base in the bottom of the first. Chris Godinez drew a leadoff walk, Spencer Gaa followed with a single to left and Max Murphy drove home Godinez with a single through the left side of the infield. The Braves went on to load the bases with one out, but Indiana State starter Kurt Kudrecki (6-4) escaped the jam without further damage.
After a dominant, 11-pitch first inning, Dennis experienced a hiccup in the second, allowing Indiana State's only run without the benefit of a hit. He walked two and hit a batter to load the bases with one out. Jeff Zahn drove in Indiana State's only run with a ground out to second. Dennis re-loaded the bases with his third walk of the inning, but got another ground out to end the threat.
The Braves took the lead for good in the fourth when shortstop Tyler Leffler led off the frame with a double and scored on Jarvis' 2-out single up the middle.
Tuesday's rematch at Indiana State will mark the first time Bradley has faced the same team it ended the regular season against in the opening game of the MVC Tournament since 2006. In that year, the Braves knocked off #1 seed Evansville, 6-3, in the opening round at Wichita State after suffering a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Purple Aces in Evansville.