By HANNAH COHEN
Drake softball is on a two-game winning streak after playing two conference doubleheaders and games against SIU (5-3 MVC) two weekends ago and Bradley (2-3 MVC) this past weekend going 4-5 in their first conference matches of the season.
“We’ve had some tough teams starting out the first couple of weekends,” infielder Taryn Pena, said. “I think it just shows anyone in our conference can beat anyone.”
Senior class candidate and Drake pitcher, Nicole Newman, pitched in four of the five games and added four wins to her now 9-6 record of the season. Her recent nomination for the NCAA honor will go to just one athlete during the College World Series and Newman is just one of thirty nominees nationally.
She proved her nomination in these past two conference standings and has throughout her career at Drake as all-time leader for strikeouts at over 735. She has over 75 wins so far was named MVC pitcher of the week for the third time this season, her thirteenth in her career, taking care of SIU in the doubleheader Saturday, March 16.
In the first game, Newman put the first of Drake’s six points on the board in the sweep with her own solo homer to centerfield on a full count. On top of that, her walk in the seventh added on another run in yet another full count scenario. In terms of defense, she dominated the Salukis in the circle, getting her season-high of 15 strikeouts and only allowed one hit in her third shutout of the season.
Other Bulldogs with highlights from the first game in the series included freshman pitcher Hannah Pals and outfielder Macy Johnson going 2-for-4, Pals with a double along with Pena.
The second game versus SIU came to be more of a challenge for Drake. After putting up two in the top of the second from singles by outfielder Abby Buie,infielder Sarah Maddox,,infielder Mandi Roemmich, and Johnson, SIU came back with three in the bottom off of pitcher Nicole Timmons.
Pals’ two-out, two-run double in the top of the fifth got Drake ahead 4-3 until the Salukis earned another run off of Timmons to tie it up in the bottom after a sac fly, ending Timmons’ outing for the game.
“The big thing for us that we have been doing really well is scoring on two outs,” Pena said. “I think we’ve been doing a really great job of battling back.”
The Bulldogs continued to fight in the sixth inning when Roemmich and Johnson reached base on back-to-back errors and then Roemmich was hit in by Pena’s clutch single. After that, Johnson scored on a double steal by her and Pena to get Drake up 6-4 and after Newman holding the Salukis in the seventh, Drake earned the series.
SIU came back for revenge on Sunday’s series finale pulling out a 1-0 win to account for Drake’s only conference loss so far. This one-run game had its biggest moment in the bottom of the first moment when their leadoff batter singled, moved to second by a sac bunt on an error by Timmons and then was hit in on a sac fly. Timmons pitched the first two innings giving up the only run of the game.
Newman came in to relieve Timmons in the third getting five strikeouts and allowing zero hits, but this wasn’t enough. Drake stranded eight girls on base and catcher Gabbie Jonas, led the Bulldogs going 2-for-3.
Drake came back the next weekend versus Bradley to sweep their second consecutive double header, but Sunday’s game was canceled due to a rainout. On this Saturday, Newman secured two more wins for the season driving in Drake’s first run with a single in the fourth and had a perfect game until the bottom of the fifth when she gave up a two-run homer, making it a 1-1 game until the top of the seventh.
The Bulldogs put up the final five runs of the game to get a 6-1 win when infielder Libby Ryan, drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, Roemmich’s and Johnson’s singles and infielder Kennedy Frank’s, liner down the right field line brought in three.
To finish the day, Drake was ahead 5-1 going into the bottom of the sixth. Timmons gave up two before Newman came in for relief, but she then gave the Braves a two-run, two-out double that tied the game 5-5.
Jonas hit in Frank and Pena with her single up the middle in the seventh. Bradley came back in the bottom with bases loaded but could only get one run off of Newman, giving Drake the 7-6 win.
“Our pitchers have been doing great and doing well and we’ve been getting quality at bats when we need to,” Pena said. “t’s been a good start so far.”