Story by Austin Cannon
Photo by Joel Venzke
The Bulldogs won the first game 3-2 while the Braves won the second, more offensive contest, 10-8, at Ron Buel Field.
Depending on Sunday’s games, Drake will be either the No. 6 or 7 seed. No matter what, Loyola will be its opponent on Thursday.
Junior Rebekah Schmidt quieted the Brave bats in the first game, while freshman left fielder Megan Sowa sparked the Drake offense, scoring all three runs.
After giving up a pair of runs in the first, Schmidt settled down and only allowed four more hits in the remaining six innings.
A walk followed by a through-the-legs error by second baseman Laura Brewer put a pair of Bradley runners on base in the first. Schmidt retired the next two batters, but Shannon King poked a ball over shortstop to make it 2-0, Braves.
Sowa’s one-out single up the middle got her on base in the bottom half of the inning. She came around to score three batters later on Hayley Nybo’s groundout to second.
The score remained 2-1 until the bottom of the third. Catcher Courtney Wood had runners at the corners — Nybo at first, Sowa at third — with two outs. Nybo took off for second on Madeline Lynch-Crumrine’s first offering to Wood. When Baileigh Basham’s throw skipped into center, Sowa jogged home to even the game at 2-2.
Schmidt retired six of the next seven batters to take the tie game to the bottom of the fifth.
Sowa knocked Lynch-Crumrine’s first pitch off the wall in right and raced to third for a leadoff triple.
Brewer followed with a walk and Mariah McKinnon came in to pinch-run.
In the same situation as before, McKinnon took off for second. This time, Basham’s throw was on-target but not in time to get McKinnon. The subsequent throw home was late, too, as Sowa scored what turned out to be the winning run.
Schmidt got the Braves in order in the top of the sixth and surrendered two hits in the seventh before coaxing a Marina Groenewegen fly ball to left to end the game.
The win improved her record to 16-11 and lowered her ERA to 3.14.
Sowa went 3-for-3 and noted how her team was mentally prepared.
“I thought we came out ready to win that game, for sure,” Sowa said. “More than the second one.”
The Bradley offense came alive in the second game and rode a carousel of Drake pitchers to victory.
The Braves jumped on Drake starter McKinnon early, scoring two runs off the sophomore in the first inning.
Kendall Duffy led off the top of the second with a single to left, marking the end of McKinnon’s brief outing. Drake manager Rich Calvert replaced her with senior Gronewold.
The Braves scored a run off Gronewold in the third, but Drake responded with two runs in the bottom half when Brewer’s single to left drove in Amy Pierce and Sowa.
The score was still 3-2 after four, but the game got away from the Bulldogs in the fifth.
Schmidt replaced Gronewold in the circle and recorded two outs before the Braves tagged her with a five-run two-out rally. The Braves collected four consecutive hits and benefitted form a Sowa error to take an 8-2 lead.
Wood connected for a two-run dinger in the sixth to cut the Bradley lead to 8-4. Her opposite-field blast was her first of the year.
Gronewold, who reentered the game in the sixth, gave those two runs back to the Braves in the seventh.
Down 10-4 in the bottom of the seventh, there seemed to be little hope for Drake.
However, Bradley pitcher Jaelen Hull hit Brewer with a 1-2 pitch to load the bases for Schmidt.
Schmidt responded with her first career grand slam, sending a high fly ball over the fence in dead center.
The happiness was short-lived, as Bradley sent in Aly Spinas-Valainis, who recorded the final two outs and secured the 10-8 win.
“We didn’t come out as ready to go as we did in the first game,” Sowa said.
The two teams played rubber match of the series yesterday. Check Thursday’s issue for a complete recap. The Bulldogs also play at Iowa State tomorrow.
Sowa, whose .373 average leads the team, stressed the importance of the final two games before the conference tournament.
“I think we definitely have to come out and win the next two games,” Sowa said. “I think that’ll push us right where we need to be.”