This Missouri Valley Conference Championship game could turn out to be a good one.
Creighton, the No. 1 seed and regular season champs, will take the field for just the second time in the tourney.
The two teams split their regular season match-up 1-1, but Bradley pulled out the victory when today’s starting pitchers met.
Senior Ashley Birdsong, the Brave’s all-time strikeout leader and first team all-MVC pitcher, will be face three-time MVC pitcher of the year Tara Oltman.
Junior Janay Mitchell used her speed get on base beating out a ground ball and later stole second. Bradley has some very long at-bats against Oltman, making her throw a lot of pitches but Bradley couldn’t push across any runs.
Birdsong started out well getting Creighton’s first hitter to fly out to right fielder Ann Creighton. After walking the second batter, Birdsong nearly gave up bomb to Creighton’s Sinkler but came to strike her out looking, before ending the inning without giving up a hit.
AFTER 1st: 0-0
Bradley struck first off junior Jacqueline Vitale’s homerun to lead off the second inning. Creighton walked later in the inning but the Bradley couldn’t add to the Braves’ tally.
Birdsong made quick work of the Bluejays in the bottom of the second, recording a one-two-three inning, striking out the middle batter.
AFTER 2nd: 1-0 BRADLEY
Oltman responded to Bridsong’s quick inning as she sat down three straight Braves’ hitters.
Birdsong struck out the first Creighton hitter in the bottom of the third. She found herself in a battle with Jessica Wakasugi next, as the Bluejays hitter continually followed balls to the third base side. But Bridsong eventually got her to foul out, and got the next hitter to end the inning.
AFTER 3rd: 1-0 BRADLEY
For the second time in the game Bradley led off the inning with a homerun. Senior Mariam Wegmann went deep to push across the Braves’ second run of the inning. Oltman went on to srike out the side, but Bradley doubled its lead.
Michelle Koch hit a deep fly ball to lead off the inning for the Bluejays, but it wasn’t deep enough as it dropped into the glove of the Braves’ right fielder. The next hitter, Renae Sinkler, snuck a ball though the shortstop and third baseman, which was the first hit allowed by Birdsong.
***With a runner on Bailey Dawson hit a long fly ball to the deepest part of the ballpark. Bradley center fielder Amada Clack went back on it, found the wall, and reached over it to bring back what would have been a game-tying homerun.
Birdsong got the next hitter to pop-out and the Braves enter the fifth in the lead.
AFTER 4th: 2-0 BRADLEY
Oltman seems to be settling in as she sat down all three hitters in order. She has now recorded six consecutive outs without letting on a base runner, and has gotten nine of the last ten hitters she face.
Birdsong had another strong inning, responding well after giving up her first hit last inning. She picked up her fourth strikeout of the game and sat the Bluejays’ hitters down in order.
AFTER 5th: 2-0 BRADLEY
Oltman went above the 100-pitch count in the top of the sixth. After getting the first batter Oltman allowed a walk to Alycia Bachkora, who was pinch ran for by junior Megan O’Malley.
O’Malley was caught leaving early on a pitch and was called out, and Oltman got the next batter to end the inning.
Birdsong sat the Blujays down in order in the bottom of the sixth, and has now recorded eight straight outs.
AFTER 6th: 2-0 BRADLEY
Oltman continues to pitch strong with another perfect inning.
Birdsong went up against the 3-4-5 hitter of the Bluejays in the bottom of the seventh.
Sinkler started the at-bat with a long hit foul ball, and eventually grounded out to third for the first out.
The next hitter, Dawson picked up her second hit of the game lining one to left field.
Lauren Larson then flew out to left field as Creighton fell to her knees to make the catch for the second out.
Michelle Graner then popped up to the second baseman as the Braves went on to win the MVC Tournament and will go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the history of the program.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: ASHLSEY BIRDSONG, 2-hitter
PLAY OF THE GAME: AMANDA CLACK, robbing 2-run homerun