Drake set for season opener this weekend
Photo: File Photo
The Drake softball team breaks out of its winter slumber for the 2011 season this Saturday at the UNI-Dome Tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason coaches’ poll on Jan. 26 with just Illinois State and Southern Illinois placed above them, tying at first place with 94 votes each. Drake was slated third with 72 votes and one first place vote.
The team is led by a senior pitching staff in Jenna DeLong and Brynne Dordel. DeLong garnered first team all-MVC honors last season while Dordel was awarded second team accolades. The battery is completed with senior catcher Erin Mollohan, who was also selected to the all-MVC second team. Molly McClelland is the fourth senior on the team, starting at first base, registering a .986 fielding percentage and hitting five home runs last season.
DeLong said that the team is excited to get back out on the diamond.
“I’m anxious to see how our team responds to playing on a regulation-size field and hitting off pitchers other than our own staff,” she said. “We are restless due to our lack of facilities and look forward to real-game situations that are difficult to simulate in practice.”
Mollohan also said the team is eager to begin the season and to show the competition what they are capable of doing.
“We’re all really excited to get out there and show what we can do this year,” she said. “It’s the seniors’ last chance to prove that we’ve got what it takes to finish in the top of the MVC and hopefully go to another NCAA Regional this spring.”
Last year the Bulldogs ended with a 32-22 record and 12-13 in the MVC. The team returns seven starters in key positions while also welcoming four first-year players.
The incoming players will have big roles to fill as the Bulldogs lost shortstop Elena Leon to graduation. Leon holds school records in five career categories (runs, doubles, home runs, stolen bases and walks). The Drake home run leader finished with 33 roundtrippers. Bridget Shields, Carrie Hatfield and Kelsey Kahler were also starters for the Bulldogs.
“We lost really good contributors last year, but we also got some really promising new additions to the team,” Mollohan said. “As the season progresses, I think they’ll fit right in and start producing right away.”
The team is optimistic going into the season, with its first home game not slated until March 19 when it will host Indiana State. First, the Bulldogs will travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Arizona, Oklahoma and California before returning to Des Moines for the opener.
“Our biggest rivalries are Creighton and UNI, so we need to be ready to face them in the spring,” DeLong said.
The Bulldogs will face South Dakota on Saturday in Cedar Falls to kick off their 2011 campaign. The first pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m.
2011 MVC Preseason Coaches’ Poll
T1. Illinois State (5) 94
T1. Southern Illinois (4) 94
3. Drake (1) 72
4. UNI 69
5. Missouri State 57
6. Creighton 54
7. Evansville 39
8. Wichita State 36
9. Indiana State 19
10. Bradley 16