Photo: Connor McCourtney
Drake completed a three-game sweep over Evansville on Sunday, moving its Missouri Valley Conference record to 8-0.
The team played a doubleheader on Saturday, winning the first game 6-5 and the second 10-2. On Sunday, senior Jenna DeLong took the circle for the second time of the weekend and almost faced defeat late in the game. In the bottom half of the sixth, the Purple Aces put three runs up on DeLong to take a 6-5 lead. DeLong came right back by stepping up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh and hitting a solo home run, her ninth of the season, to send the game to extra innings.
DeLong handed the ball to senior Brynne Dordel for extras, and Dordel pitched perfect eighth and ninth innings, earning her ninth win of the season.
In the bottom of the ninth, senior Molly McClelland stepped up to the plate with freshman Amy Pierce on third base, 60 feet away from victory. McClelland dropped a perfect bunt right in front of Evansville pitcher Kendall Kautz, scoring Pierce on the suicide-squeeze play for the three-game sweep and a 7-6 victory.
“Being undefeated in MVC play is incredible and almost unheard of,” DeLong said. “It definitely puts a target on our back, because we are the only team without a loss yet.”
In addition to scoring the winning run on Sunday, Pierce tied with fellow freshman Jordan Gronewold with a team-high six hits in the series. Pierce also hit her first career home run for the Bulldogs on Sunday.
The win keeps Drake in sole first place in the MVC. Illinois State is 6-1 in MVC play and stands in second place.
“As a team, we don’t really look and focus on rankings,” junior Torey Craddock said. “We go one weekend, one team and one game at a time, and I think that has been a huge advantage to us. We are just playing very well as a team together right now.”
Drake now stands at 21-12 overall to go along with its best start in the MVC in school history.
“We want to keep this conference win streak going as long as possible,” DeLong said. “I know all of us have the same goal and that is to win.”
After Drake’s nonconference matchup with Iowa yesterday, the Bulldogs will be back in conference with a three-game series this weekend against Wichita State in Wichita, Kan.
“It’s a confidence booster knowing we can come back when we get down early,” DeLong said. “We plan on using that to win this out-of-town series with Wichita [State].”
With 15 games still remaining for the Bulldogs before the conference tournament, the season is still young. Yet with this outstanding start, the team is well on its way to achieving some of its goals.
“We want to make the conference tournament; that has always been a goal,” Craddock said. “It seems simple, but every team in the Valley is capable of winning. But with this streak, our confidence grows as we keep winning. We are playing smart softball, and as long as we do the little things, hopefully our streak will continue.”