Drake opened up its 2012 campaign at the Iowa State Classic in Ames this weekend. The Bulldogs split their first two contests last Saturday, defeating Western Illinois 3-2 and losing to North Dakota 4-3.
Sophomore Jordan Gronewold struck out 10 batters and surrendered just two hits against Western Illinois to notch her first win of the season. Gronewold has big shoes to fill in the Bulldog pitching staff as she replaces Jenna DeLong and Brynne Dordel, two of the top pitchers in Drake history.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Leathernecks, Drake rallied to score two runs. WIU pitcher Hailey Bickford walked six batters in the contest.
Freshman Rebekah Schmidt took to the circle in her first career start against North Dakota. Schmidt walked six and took the loss, surrendering a decisive two-run home run in the fifth inning.
Drake dropped down two in the first inning, but senior Torey Craddock connected on her first home run of the season. Her two-run shot tied the game at two.
Sophomore Amy Pierce added an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to pull the Bulldogs within 4-3, but Drake could not put together another rally.
Last season, Drake finished 34-21 overall and 19-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference, good for second place. The Bulldogs advanced to the title game of the State Farm MVC Championship, but Missouri State ousted Drake 7-4 at Ron Buel Field.
Craddock is the team’s top returning hitter. She finished tied for first in the MVC with 14 doubles in 2011. Junior outfielder Sam West led the MVC with 21 stolen bases last season.
Following a successful season in 2011, the coaches of the MVC selected Drake to finish sixth this year.
The Bulldogs wrapped up the Iowa State Classic yesterday with games against Green Bay and Valparaiso. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place at the University of Northern Iowa Dome in Cedar Falls, but machine difficulties with the stadium’s turf caused the school to cancel the tournament.
Details from yesterday’s contests will be available in the next issue of The Times-Delphic.