Bradley gets a rematch with #25 Creighton (42-13) in tonight’s 7 p.m. contest with a spot in Saturday’s championship game on the line. The Bluejays improved to 4-0 against Bradley this season with a 2-0 victory Thursday night. Creighton has not scored more than four runs in any of the previous four meetings against the Braves this year, but has managed to take all four by a combined seven runs.
After Altbach retired the Bears (23-34) in order in the top of the first, Bradley matched its Thursday hit total against the Bluejays in the first two at-bats in the bottom of the first when Dan Brewer led off with a triple into the right field corner and scored when Paul Rice hit the next pitch down the left field line for a two-run home run. Catcher Ryan Eigsti added a solo home run over the left field bullpen with one out in the second for a 3-0 Bradley lead.
Rice added his second home run of the game to lead off the fourth, making him the first Brave to hit multiple homers in a game this season. Rice’s fourth-inning blast chased
Second baseman Ryan Curry greeted Clubb with a double down the left field line to tie Nelson Correa’s school career hits record (251). After Carr moved Curry to third with a ground out, Peter Malinowski doubled into the left centerfield gap to put the Braves up 5-0.
The Bears loaded the bases with one out in the fourth with a single, a walk and a hit batter, but Altbach pitched out of the jam by striking out Chris Taylor and getting Brayden Drake to foul out to Eigsti on the first pitch.
After avoiding the Missouri State rally in the top of the fourth, the Braves tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the inning on Brewer’s two-run homer, his team-leading 10th blast of the year. Brewer’s blast was Bradley’s fourth homer of the game, tying the team’s season-high previously set in an 11-4 victory March 10 at Tennessee Tech in one of Altbach’s three other starts this year.
The Bears threatened again in the seventh by putting runners at first and second with one out on a single and a walk, but after a brief visit from head coach Dewey Kalmer, Altbach got an inning-ending double play from Matt Lawson to again remain unscathed.
Curry led off the bottom of the seventh with his second double of the game to take sole possession of the Bradley career hits record. Curry advanced to third on a wild pitch and Justin Carr drew a walk to put runners on the corners with no outs. Malinowski followed with a sacrifice fly, to push Bradley’s lead to 8-0. Curry’s seventh-inning double was Bradley’s eighth and final hit of the game, all for extra bases.
By getting Ben Woodbury to ground out to start the eighth inning, Altbach extended his streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to 20.0, but the Bears quickly put that streak to an end with consecutive solo homers by Tyler Mattson and Nolan Keane. Altbach threw 111 pitches in his longest outing of the year, surpassing the 6.1 innings he tossed March 10 at Tennessee Tech. Altbach started only one more game after that outing at Tennessee Tech before taking over as the team’s closer.
Sophomore right-hander Tyler Thornton relieved Altbach following Keane’s blast to right center and promptly struck out Ben Carlson and Josh Mazzola to end the eighth. The Bears mounted one more threat in the ninth, beginning with a leadoff double by Taylor, followed by a single from Drake to put runners on the corners with no outs. Paul made it 8-3 by driving right fielder Colby Luttrell back to the warning track for a sacrifice fly, but Thornton closed out the game by getting Lawson to go down swinging and Woodbury to ground out to Rice at third.
BRADLEY’S TOURNAMENT NOTES: Bradley came into the MVC Tournament with just 26 home runs in 49 regular-season games, but the Braves have slugged six homers in its three postseason games to date ... Friday afternoon’s win snapped a six-game postseason losing streak to the league’s six public institutions, dating back to a trio of high-scoring wins against Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Missouri State in the 1996 MVC Tournament. The Braves had dropped three straight postseason games to Missouri State, as well as two straight to the Shockers and one to Indiana State since their 11-10 win against MSU May 18, 1996 ... Friday’s outing was Altbach’s longest of the season, surpassing his 6.1 innings March 10 at Tennessee Tech. His seven wins this year the most by a Bradley freshman since Doug Robertson set the school’s single-season victory total with 13 in 1994 ... By following up last season’s 2-2 showing in the MVC Tournament with two wins this season, Bradley has won multiple games in consecutive MVC Tournament’s for the first time since 1973(2-2 at Memphis) and 1974 (2-2 at Tulsa) ... In addition to becoming Bradley’s all-time hits leader, Ryan Curry has at least temporarily taken over as The Valley’s leader in doubles this season by bumping his total to 22. Of Curry’s 22 doubles, he has legged out 18 in Bradley’s 31 road games.