Bradley spent most of the week deflecting talk about its NCAA regional at-large chances.
That changed just a bit on Friday, and with good reason. A 3-1 win over No. 11 Dallas Baptist, the No. 2 team in the national RPI, gave Bradley a high-quality win and advanced the Braves to Saturday’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title game at Eck Stadium.
Bradley, with an RPI ranked No. 20, worked hard to repair the damage from a five-game losing streak. If the Braves (35-18) don’t win Saturday, they helped their at-large resume this week.
"We’ve done everything that they’ve asked us to do, and more," Bradley coach Elvis Dominguez said. "I like our chances now, especially playing in the championship."
Third-seeded Bradley will play either top-seeded Missouri State or fourth-seeded Wichita State at 7 p.m., Saturday. It is Bradley’s first appearance in the title game since 1996. Bradley last won an MVC playoff title in 1968, also its last NCAA appearance.
Bradley starter Cameron Roegner threw a career-high eight innings and held Dallas Baptist (43-13) to five hits. He threw his curveball early in the counts and finished off hitters with his fastball, producing a series of popups and flyballs. When he needed a groundball, he got one to produce a double play in fourth after two one-out singles by the Patriots.
"I had that curveball working for strikes, trying to get ahead with that," he said. "I let them get themselves out."
Bradley second baseman Chris Godinez went 3 for 4, scoring and driving in a run. He doubled to lead off the game, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a groundout.
Hustle gave the Braves a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
Spencer Gaa singled and moved to second on a groundout. Paul Solka struck out on a wild pitch and Patriots catcher Daniel Salters chased the ball down toward the first-base dugout. He threw out Solka at first. Gaa sped around third and beat Salters to home, arriving ahead of the throw to slide in safely.
"Out of the hand of the pitcher, I saw it down so I was going," Gaa said. "Coach (Sean) Lyons was waving me in, so there was no stopping."
In the fifth, Tyler Leffler turned a leadoff walk into a run when Godinez doubled, putting the Braves up 3-1.
3 6 0
1 5 1
W – Roegner, 4-0. L – Higgins, 0-1. S — Dennis (12).