Newcomers Shine as Bradley Rallies in Home Opener, 8-7
Release: Saturday 03/28/2008 
by Bradley University
Tommy Fitzgerald drove home the winning run in the ninth
Tommy Fitzgerald drove home...
Courtesy: Bradley University

PEORIA, Ill. -- In the first career game at O’Brien Field for 10 Bradley newcomers, several first-year players delivered in the clutch, leading the Braves (10-10, 3-1 MVC) to an 8-7, come-from-behind win against visiting Indiana State (5-14, 1-3 MVC) in the 2008 home opener Friday evening.


Junior second baseman Tommy Fitzgerald drove home the winning run with a bases-loaded single in the ninth, junior left fielder Mike Brumleve was 2-for-4 with four runs batted in, junior catcher Nick Mitidiero was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and junior closer Kori Jensen improved to 2-0 on the year, despite giving up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth.


Both teams pushed across a run in the first inning on RBI doubles.  In the top of the first, Chris Schmidt flared a one-out single into shallow right centerfield, advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball, then scored on Nick Ciolli’s double down the left field line.  Bradley evened the score in the home half of the first when Dan Brewer drew a leadoff walk, stole second and third and scored on Mitidiero’s one-out double.


The Sycamores got some help from the Bradley defense as they forged a 2-1 lead in the fifth.  Brian Jett led off the fifth with a double into the right field corner, then scored on a routine ground ball that charging shortstop Matt Fritz allowed to scoot under his glove.


Indiana State then gained some separation with a 4-run sixth inning, which started with Ciolli’s leadoff triple into the left field corner.  Zane Chavez brought Ciolli home with a soft single into left centerfield.  After a single by Brian Oliver put runners at the corners with one out, Jett followed with single through the right side to plate Chavez for a 4-1 lead.  After Scahill fanned Pascual Del Real for the second out, No. 9 hitter Ryan Strausborger delivered a two-out, 2-run double for a 6-1 lead.


The Braves started to rally in the bottom of the sixth, aided by a pair of walks and a balk by Sycamore starter Michael Manus.  Manus had not surrendered a hit since Mitidiero’s first-inning double until Brumleve drove home Rob Elliott and Colby Luttrell with a 2-out single.  Brumleve was thrown out trying to take second on the play, however, to end the rally with the Braves trailing 6-3.


Brendon Smith relieved Manus to start the seventh and worked out of two-out trouble, a double by Matt Fritz and a walk to Brewer, by getting pinch-hitter Grant Escue to pop out. But after reliever Jon Goebel breezed through the top of the eighth, Bradley put together another rally in the home half of the eighth. 


Consecutive singles by Mitidiero and Luttrell and a Smith balk put runners at second and third with one out in the eighth and Brumleve came through with another 2-run single to pull Bradley within 6-5. Pinch-runner Chris Gordon was thrown out at home, however, trying to score on Jim Clayton’s single to left.  The Braves continued the rally, though, loading the bases when Fitzgerald reached on catcher’s interference and Fritz was hit by a pitch, and pulled into a 6-6 tie when Brewer drew his third walk of the game.


The Sycamores bounced back with a go-ahead run in the top of the ninth.  Jensen started the inning on the mound and hit Ciolli with a pitch to open the ninth.  After Shoemaker moved Ciolli to second with a sacrifice, Chavez hit an 0-2 pitch into short right centerfield to plate Ciolli.  Jensen, who has two wins and three saves in Bradley’s last eight games, prevented any further damage by getting Oliver to strike out and Jett to ground out to end the ninth.


The Braves again fought back in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a couple of good bounces.  Mitidiero led off with a swinging bunt that appeared to roll foul down the third base line, but the slow roller hit the lip on the foul side of the line and kicked back into fair territory.  Luttrell followed with an infield single over second base before Adam Kimble executed a sacrifice and center fielder Gordon was intentionally walked to load the bases.  Jensen attempted to lay down a squeeze bunt, but relief pitcher Micah Spencer’s pitch sailed to the backstop, allowing Mitidiero to score and again tie the game, 7-7.


With just one out, Indiana State again opted to load the bases by intentionally walking Jensen, but Fitzgerald beat the strategy by dropping a single into shallow right field to end the game.


The three-game series will continue with a 2 p.m. contest Saturday and will conclude with a 1 p.m. finale Sunday at O’Brien Field.  Righthanders Collin Brennan (0-0) and Brad Altbach (1-2) are expected to start the final two games on the mound for the Braves.  Weekend ticket prices for Bradley games at O’Brien Field are $5 for adults, $2 for children (k-12) and free for Bradley University students, faculty and staff, all with valid identification.


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