BY MATT GOGERTY
Despite high expectations, the Bulldogs have found themselves in a hole at the start of regular season play.
After an average performance in preseason tourney play, finishing with a record of 16-9, Drake has entered regular season play on a seven-game losing streak.
The Bulldogs were selected as favorites to win the MVC Championship in preseason polls. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, they seem to be flailing a little bit without ace pitcher Nicole Newman.
Newman has not seen action since Feb. 24 when the Bulldogs faced Maryland in a preseason tourney. Drake has a record of 6-17 since Newman’s last outing against Maryland.
Entering regular season play on March 26 the Bulldogs fell victim to a mercy rule after falling behind 10 runs against Wichita State in their first game.
In the second game of the day the Bulldogs picked up the pace, but the 10 hits and five runs scored was to no avail. Wichita State narrowly escaped with a one-run win.
Wichita has become somewhat of an archenemy to the Bulldogs. In 2016, Wichita State defeated the Bulldogs in the MVC championship, and seems to have become a kryptonite for Drake.
The Bulldogs looked for a win against Creighton on March 22, but fell short by one run. It was a hitting intensive affair between the two teams with each team having at least 10.
The pitching duties were mostly headed by, junior Kailee Smith – for all seven games. Newman and Smith typically divvy up the pitching responsibility and the Bulldogs have found success with that formula. With Newman out on an injury, it is more relevant than ever that she is a vital piece of the Bulldog puzzle.
Smith has experienced ups and downs in these first seven games. Her season ERA is 4.53, but 1.17 is her lowest of the regular season. She attained her season low in six innings against Southern Illinois on March 25.
The three games against Southern Illinois were mirrors of the previous performances.
Despite the absence on the pitching staff, the Bulldogs are still all there. They are the same team that made it to the final round of the MVC tournament last year and will undoubtedly turn these losses into fuel to bounce back even harder when Newman comes back.
The game of softball is contingent on a well put together pitching staff. Smith’s role is vital, but without the other half of the duo, it’s hard to fill the void.
The Bulldogs will be home for a while, with the next nine games being played at Ron Buel Field. They will face Indiana State in two games April 1 and 2, followed by a game against the University of Iowa on April 5.