The Bradley baseball team improved its record to 5-1 at home and 18-8 overall with a victory over the University of Illinois Tuesday at O’Brien Field.
The Braves capitalized on the Illini’s mistakes, again coming from behind to record a 7-4 win.
In the first inning, Illinois scored three runs on seven hits off Bradley starter junior Tory Doerr.
But the Braves didn’t panic and chipped away at the lead. They scored one run in the third on junior Rob Elliott’s sacrifice fly then tied the game in the fifth inning on junior Jerrod Eigsti’s two-run single.
In the sixth inning, Bradley took its first lead of the ballgame when freshman first baseman Derek Sprout launched a leadoff homerun. This gave the Braves a 4-3 lead. It was the first homer of Sprout’s career.
But the Illini refused to go away. In the eighth inning, Illinois got a run off junior setup man Danny Gifford to tie the game at four.
Just as they have done all season, the Braves answered with three runs in the bottom of the eighth to give the Braves the lead for good.
Sophomore Bob Schuch began the rally with a walk. Then senior Brian Martin had a bunt single and the bases were loaded after Elliott walked. Schuch scored on a wild pitch and Martin and Elliott scored on an error by the pitcher.
Junior Justin Ziegler entered the game in the ninth and earned his eighth save of the season to set a new school record.
Doerr pitched 5.2 innings and gave up three earned runs. Gifford was credited with the win.
Martin, Eigsti and sophomore Jason Leblebijian all had two hits to lead the team.
Junior starting pitcher Joe Bircher said the team wanted to beat Illinois more than an average opponent because they’re a rival.
“It’s the first time in my three years here we’ve been able to beat them and I think it shows just how far we’ve come as a program in three short years under coach Dominguez,” he said. “You could tell everyone on the team really wanted to beat Illinois and we brought that intensity to the game.”
Tonight the Braves will begin conference play with a three game series against Indiana State in Terre Haute.