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Softball Sports

Drake rides six-game winning streak as conference play heats up

Every week, Rich Calvert outlines Drake softball practice goals.

This week, Calvert outlined something different.

“Coach (Calvert) says we’re playing with heart,” said junior outfielder Macie Silliman. “He drew a person with a big heart on the locker room white board the other day, and said, ‘This is what’s happening.’”

Drake’s teamwork — and six straight wins — inspired Calvert’s artwork.

On March 17-18, the Bulldogs swept Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind. Drake opened the three game series with back-to-back victories over the Sycamores.

Led by junior outfielder Lindsey Vande Wall, Drake capped the series with a 2-0 win on March 18.

Vande Wall’s fly ball drove Amy Pierce home in the fourth inning for a 1-0 edge.

Senior outfielder Jaimie Duffek pushed Vande Wall to the plate with a seventh inning RBI single, completing Drake’s 2-0 victory.

Last Saturday marked another Missouri Valley Conference double-header, and Drake opened the three game series with consecutive wins over Bradley.

On Sunday, sophomore Jordan Gronewold pitched a complete game shutout, sealing Drake’s sweep with a 1-0 victory.

For Silliman, teamwork powered the Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak.

“We’ve definitely come together as a team,” she said. “We kind of just fed off each other and kept it going.”

Missouri Valley Conference play is just underway, but the May 10-12 State Farm MVC Championship is already on Drake’s horizon, Silliman said.

“I hope we continue to win, obviously, and making the (NCAA) tournament is one of our big goals every year and be able to put some numbers up against the top teams,” she said. “For me, I just want to give whatever I can to the team and go from there.”

At 13-14 overall and 6-0 in the MVC, Drake’s numbers are already promising. Tied with Northern Iowa in MVC play, the Bulldogs are eager to topple conference powerhouses Southern Illinois and Illinois State, Silliman said.

Before facing the Salukis and the Redbirds, though, Drake will take on Missouri State on Saturday and Sunday at Ron Buel Field.

Despite the Bears’ 3-3 MVC record, Drake anticipates a competitive series.

Missouri State pitcher Natalie Rose is armed with a dangerous curveball, Silliman said.

“Our main concern is the pitcher,” she said. “She’ll probably be our main thing to get past.”

For sophomore infielder Liz Buck, Rose’s unpredictable pitch is difficult but not impossible to hit.

“They have a pretty good pitcher who has a good curveball, so that will be tough, but I think we’ve seen it all from them,” Buck said.

With Rose’s curveball in mind, the Bulldogs are ready to improve offensively.

“I think we hope to improve our hitting a little more,” Buck said. “Just keep scoring and getting people on base, having more of a presence at the plate.”

Though Rose’s pitching poses a threat, Buck is confident in Drake’s improvement on the mound.

“Our pitching has really picked it up,” she said. “They’re getting ahead on the count a lot more and they’re just stringing hits together a lot more.”

Even after stringing together six straight victories, Drake is taking the MVC’s competitive field one weekend at a time.

“I think it’s pretty tough this year,” Buck said. “Every weekend should be a challenge.”

The Bulldogs take on Missouri State at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. in a double-header on Saturday at Ron Buel Field.

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