Tournament Champions!

May 10, 2014

Sophomore Kendall Duffy (Naperville, Ill./Benet Academy) hit a fifth-inning grand slam to highlight a five-run inning for Bradley and freshman Jaelen Hull (Clifton, Ill./Bishop McNamara) limited Loyola to four hits and one run in three and one-third innings out of the bullpen as the Braves rallied for an 8-7 victory against the Ramblers in the championship game of the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Saturday afternoon. 

Bradley (27-30 overall), which earned its second NCAA Tournament trip with the victory, trailed twice before Duffy’s fifth-inning grand slam gave the Braves an 8-6 lead after five innings.  The Tournament title was Bradley’s second in program history and first since winning the 2009 event in East Peoria.

Loyola (25-31 overall) took an early lead with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning.  A single, error and walk loaded the bases for the Ramblers and a one-out RBI single by Olivia Bell gave Loyola an early 1-0 lead.  An Annie Korth sacrifice fly drove in another run as Loyola took a 2-0 lead in the opening frame.

Senior Brianne Joseph (Post Falls, Idaho/Post Falls) had a bunt single to open the bottom of the first for the Braves and senior Marina Groenewegen (Surrey, British Columbia/Elgin Park Secondary/Southern Idaho) drew a one-out walk to put runners at first and second.  Junior Shannon King (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty), who hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning of the season’s first meeting with Loyola, ripped a three-run shot to right center to put the Braves in front 3-2.

Three Bradley errors led to a four-run fourth inning for Loyola, however.  A one-out double was followed by back-to-back BU errors to load the bases and the Ramblers tied it up at 3-3 on a sacrifice fly to center field by Brie Pasquale.  The third Bradley error of the inning allowed another run to come home and a two-run double off the bat of Lauren Moore gave the Ramblers a 6-3 advantage. 

Bradley threatened in the bottom of the fourth after Madeline Lynch-Crumrine (Sedro-Woolley, Wash./Sedro-Woolley) and King led off the inning with back-to-back singles.  Duffy drew a one-out walk to load the bases, but MVC Pitcher of the Year Brittany Gardner struck out the next batter she faced and got a groundout to end the threat as the Braves left the bases loaded.

A five-run bottom of the fifth put Bradley back in front 8-6. Joseph, who tallied three hits on the afternoon and seven for the tournament, and junior Alyson Clemente (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley) led off the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles and the Braves had the bases loaded after a two-out King walk.  Senior Alex Chandler (Needles, Calif./Needles) drove in a run with a bases loaded walk to cut the Loyola lead to 6-4 and Duffy smacked Bradley’s second grand slam of the tournament with a shot to left center to once again give the Braves the lead at 8-6. 

The grand slam was Duffy’s second of the year and Bradley’s second of the tournament.  The Braves clubbed six home runs in the three games of the Valley Tournament for the fourth best total in league tournament history.

Loyola got a run back in the top of the sixth after Pasquale drew a one-out walk.  The Ramblers had runners at second and third with two outs after a fielder’s choice and single for Tarran Shaffer, who drove in a run with a RBI single to right.  Lynch-Crumrine threw a strike to the plate from right field to prevent another run and Bradley got the last out of the inning at third base when pinch runner Kat Widup tried to race back to the bag after she was unable to score as the Braves took a one-run lead into the seventh.

Annie Korth had a one-out single in the top of the seventh and represented the tying run, before Hull got a flyout and groundout to close out the victory.  Hull struck out two and walked one in the win out of the bullpen to improve to 7-12 on the year. 

Lynch-Crumrine surrendered just one earned run (six total) in three and two-third innings in the no decision.  She was named MVC Tournament MVP after posting a 2-0 record with a 1.98 ERA in three starts to go with a .273 batting average at the plate.

Joining Lynch-Crumrine on the all-tournament team was Joseph, who had three multi-hit game and hit .636 (7-for-11) with three runs and one RBI in the three victories.  King was also on the all-tournament team after driving in five runs in the three games and owning a .444 average (4-for-9) with a double and home run.  Groenewegen also earned a spot on the all-tournament squad, going 3-for-11 (.273) with a pair of home runs, four runs scored and two RBI.

The NCAA Tournament field will be announced Sunday at 9 p.m. (CDT) on ESPNU.