PEORIA, Ill. -- Illinois State outhit host Bradley for the second straight game, but the Redbirds (18-22, 8-9) popped out six times and left 12 runners on base, allowing the Braves (22-16, 6-8) to take a 2-games-to-none lead in their Missouri Valley Conference weekend series with a 7-4 victory Saturday afternoon at O’Brien Field. Bradley will try for its first Valley sweep of the season Sunday when the two teams conclude the series with a 6 p.m. contest at O’Brien Field.
Freshman right-hander Brad Altbach relieved Brennan, but after Collin Salzenstein popped out, Ryan Anetsberger doubled to left centerfield to put runners at the corners with one out. Kevin Dubler followed with a sacrifice fly and Jesse Griswold hit an RBI single to center to pull the Redbirds to within 4-2. Altbach also allowed single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but he earned his second save of the season, thanks to Bradley’s 3-run burst in the bottom of the seventh.
After the Redbirds rally in the top of the seventh, third baseman Paul Rice started Bradley’s answer in the home half of the inning with an infield single. Ryan Curry was hit by a Dan Sorce pitch and Justin Carr advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. After Ryan Eigsti was intentionally walked to load the bases, Colby Luttrell greeted reliever Tyler Cox with a two-run single through the right side of the Redbird infield. Luttrell got stuck between first and second, however, and Eigsti was eventually tagged out in the second half of the resulting “pickle” plays. First baseman Mike McMillan delivered a two-out, RBI double into the leftfield corner, however, giving the Braves a 7-2 lead.
For the third straight game, Bradley took the early lead by scoring multiple runs in the first inning. Saturday’s scoring began when Rice lined his third home run of the year over the right centerfield wall. After back-to-back singles by Curry and Carr and a wild pitch from Redbird starter Jike Hlavacek (2-2) put runners at second and third with one out, Eigsti lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Curry.
Bradley increased the lead to 4-0 in the third inning. Eigsti followed a Carr single with a triple that hit high off the right field wall and Luttrell brought the Bradley catcher home with a single down the left field line.
The Redbird brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after Dubler doubled and Griswold singled to open the frame. Mike Stalowy grounded into a double play and O’Brien fittingly ended the game by popping out to second base.