PEORIA, Ill. - There was no shortage of heroes for the Bradley Baseball team in Sunday's series finale against Missouri State (24-10, 4-2 MVC) at O'Brien Field. The Braves (16-12-1, 3-3 MVC) earned a 4-3 victory to win the series 2-games-to-1 against the league's preseason favorite.
Junior left fielder Mike Tauchman drove in the winning run in the eighth inning by dumping a 2-out single into left field to bring home freshman first baseman Andrew Wasmund from third. Senior closer Danny Gifford worked around a 2-out walk in the ninth to earn his fifth save of the season to nail down Bradley's fifth win in its last five games.
Redshirt freshman right-hander Patrick Flanagan was stellar in his first start of the season, subbing for the injured John Nasshan. Flanagan threw six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out four.
Flanagan left the game with a 2-0 lead, thanks to some fortunate base-running for the Braves. Freshman center fielder Max Murphy appeared to be picked off first base by Missouri State catcher Luke Voit with two outs in the fifth. But when Voit threw to first, Murphy scrambled to second for a stolen base. Right fielder Bob Schuch, who was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI's, drove home the game's first run when he followed with a single into center field.
The scoring was even more unconventional in the sixth inning after catcher Derek Sprout opened the frame with a single and took second on a Wasmund sacrifice. Freshman second baseman Chris Godinez followed with a fly ball into the right centerfield gap. Though MSU right fielder Trey Massenberg avoided a collision with his center fielder when he made the catch, he spun and made a lazy throw back to the infield. Sprout tagged on the play, never hesitated rounding third and beat the relay throw home to put the Braves ahead, 2-0.
Flanagan retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced before turning the 2-0 lead over to the Bradley bullpen, but the Bears responded with three runs in the top of the seventh against junior right-hander Rob Kennedy. Second baseman Kevin Medrano had the big hit, delivering a 2-out, bases-loaded single into left field to put the Bears ahead, 3-2.
Bradley came right back in the bottom of the seventh after Tauchman chased Missouri State starter Cody Schumacher with a leadoff double. Massenberg again was the victim of bad luck in the gap as he slipped after chasing the ball down, allowing Tauchman to coast into second.
The Braves went on to load the bases with no outs when Greg Partyka walked and Murphy reached on an error, but it appeared the Bears might escape the jam unscathed after Jason Leblebijian popped out. Schuch followed with a ground ball to second, but hustled down the line as Missouri State was unable to complete the double play, allowing Tauchman to score the tying run.
Reliever Jacob Booden (2-1) then worked out of a bases loaded, no outs jam of his own in the top of the eighth by recording three straight strikeouts, setting the stage for the go-ahead rally in the home half of the eighth.
Wasmund opened the frame with a long single down the left field line, took second on a Godinez sacrifice and third on a Rob Elliott ground out before Tauchman flicked his base hit into left field.
The Braves will return to action by visiting Illinois-Chicago Tuesday night, then will host Valley-leading Indiana State in a 3-game set next weekend at O'Brien Field. Game times for the weekend series against the Sycamores are 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.