Photo: Taylor Soule
When Missouri State’s Natalie Rose launched her first pitch, the Drake softball team didn’t hear cracking bats.
Rose’s curveball instead hummed above home plate.
The Bulldogs dropped game one 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at Ron Buel Field. After game one’s pitching perplexity, Drake hit its offensive stride to claim the second game 4-2.
For sophomore pitcher Jordan Gronewold, solving Rose’s pitching riddle proved tough early on.
“It got us in the beginning,” she said. “We tried making adjustments.”
Gronewold’s home run fueled Drake’s early offense push, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 edge.
Junior outfielder Macie Silliman completed Drake’s scoring with a third inning run. After stealing second base, Silliman sprinted home on sophomore Amy Pierce’s double, stretching Drake’s early advantage to 2-0.
Missouri State’s Caitlin Chapin retaliated with an RBI double in the fourth inning to narrow Drake’s lead to 2-1.
A Bulldog error drove Missouri State’s Stevie Pierce home in the fifth inning, evening the scoreboard at two runs apiece.
The Bears’ offensive blitz wasn’t finished just yet, though.
Missouri State’s Lauren Eisenreich capitalized on another Bulldog error in the sixth inning to take the lead for good.
After reaching base on a one-out walk from freshman pitcher Rebekah Schmidt, Eisenreich advanced to second base on a Bears bunt. After stealing third base, another Bulldog mistake nudged Eisenreich home.
Rose closed game one with several key strikeouts, dealing Drake its first Missouri Valley Conference defeat of the 2012 campaign.
Improving to 11-4 on the season, Rose allowed two runs on six hits with four strikeouts.
Just two hours later, the Bulldogs faced Rose’s swerving pitch again.
This time, though, Drake’s adjustments paid off despite game two’s slow start.
“I thought we started off a little sluggish, but then our momentum picked up and we just stuck with it that way,” Gronewold said. “We didn’t give up.”
The Bears started game two with an early offensive statement.
Back-to-back runs off two hits against Gronewold gave Missouri State a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
Two innings later, the Bulldogs doubled Missouri State’s two-run output with four runs of their own.
Silliman and Pierce opened the fourth inning with consecutive singles.
Freshman Hayley Nybo and senior Torey Craddock followed with back-to-back hits, putting runners on first and second base.
Junior Lindsey Vande Wall gave Drake the lead with her second home run of the season to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 advantage.
“We were down and just had a couple runners on base, and I wasn’t thinking about much, just about getting a swing on the ball, and it worked out,” Vande Wall said.
Later in the fourth inning, freshman infielder Laura Brewer registered an RBI single, extending the Bulldogs’ lead to 4-2.
For Vande Wall, game two was evidence of Drake’s persistence.
“I think we just kept fighting and kept working at it,” Vande Wall said. “Eventually, we put some things together, strung some hits together and scored some runs.”
Saturday’s win improved Drake to 14-16 overall and 7-1 in the MVC.
The Bulldogs take on in-state rival Iowa at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Iowa City.
After 2011’s 2-1 victory over the Hawkeyes, Vande Wall anticipates another competitive contest.
“It was a close game last year, so I’m sure it will be the same this year,” she said. “We’ll just try to go to Iowa City and get a win.”
With a Big Four win in mind, Drake is ready to rush Bob Pearl Field.
“We’re just going to go out and play hard,” Gronewold said. “It’s just a midweek game, so we want to get a win and be ready for the weekend.”