Braves Finish Three-Game Sweep of Bears to Close Regular Season
PEORIA, Ill. -- Bradley’s Ashley Birdsong silenced Missouri State’s bats to lead the red-hot Braves to a 2-0 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Bears Sunday afternoon at Laura Bradley Park. Jacqueline Vitale’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning provided the only offense in the contest and catapulted Bradley (21-26, 12-12 MVC) to its fifth straight win.
Birdsong (15-10), who won both ends of BU’s doubleheader sweep of the Bears on Saturday, turned in a complete-game, two-hit shutout of Missouri State Sunday to earn her fifth victory of the week. The senior righty would not allow an MSU hit beyond the third inning and permitted just two MSU baserunners to advance into scoring position on the day.
Missouri State’s best scoring opportunity came in the fifth inning, after Brooke Kempker was hit by a Birdsong pitch leading off the frame. Kempker moved to second on a Bubba Weiss sacrifice bunt, then advanced to third on a ground out by Ashley Knehans.
But Birdsong closed the door on the Bears, snagging a line drive off the bat of Ashley Arbon that would have been a run- scoring single to center field.
The Bears put a single baserunner on in both the sixth and seventh innings but could not advance either into scoring position.
Vitale’s game-winning blast came on the first pitch she saw from Missouri State starter Lauren McGinley, who issued a four-pitch walk with one-out to the preceding batter, Miriam Wegmann.
McGinley (10-12) was tagged with the loss despite giving up just the two runs on only three hits. The junior right-hander struggled with her control, however, issuing six walks, which matched a career high.
Despite suffering their fourth consecutive loss Sunday, Missouri State (19-24, 8-12 MVC) secured its spot in next week’s State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with Indiana State’s setback to Southern Illinois and Creighton’s defeat of Wichita State. The seventh-seeded Bears will open the tourney against the same Bradley squad at EastSide Centre in East Peoria, Ill., on Thursday (May 7) at 1:30 p.m.