Softball struggles during Relays’ weekend, holds onto top spot in MVC
STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
The softball team hit their biggest roadblock of the season to date, going 1-4 over the past week, losing to Iowa State, Northern Iowa and two games to Bradley over the weekend of Drake Relays. The Bulldogs record fell to 28-18 overall and 17-7 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
The skid started Tuesday as Iowa State came into town looking for revenge after falling to the Bulldogs 6-3 in Ames on April 8. They achieved their goal, scoring five runs in an explosive first inning and two more in the second to put Drake in the rearview mirror.
The Bulldogs would manage to score two runs as senior Hayley Nybo led the way at the plate, going 2-3 with a home run and a double, but Drake still fell 7-2.
Nybo continued her climb up the Drake record books. She sits second in both homers and doubles for her career as her senior season winds down. Freshman Kailee Smith started the game in the circle and allowing all seven runs, but only three of which were earned as Drake committed a season-high four errors.
Drake traveled to Cedar Falls the next day to take on the UNI Panthers in a rematch of the doubleheader the week before, which the teams split. The Panthers won the rubber match in this clash, 3-2.
A pitcher’s duel, the Bulldogs opened the scoring in the sixth inning on Nybo’s 32nd career home run. She is now just one short of the Drake record, a two run blast to make the score 2-0.
But UNI stormed back, scoring one in the sixth and two more in the seventh to walk off against the Bulldogs. Freshman Nicole Newman started the game and cruised until the seventh inning rally chased her from the game. After loading the bases, she departed in favor of senior Rebekah Schmidt, who hit a batter to force in the tying run. The next batter hit a swinging bunt back at Schmidt whose throw went wide as the walk-off run scored. This was the Bulldog’s first losing streak since February.
The Bulldogs then traveled to Bradley for a weekend three game series. After one game was rained out and postponed until Sunday, the Bulldogs and the Braves took the field for their first tussle of the weekend. Drake struggled early as Schmidt allowed two runs in both the first and third innings to fall behind 4-0.
In the fifth, Nybo connected for a two-run double and Schmidt added a sacrifice fly to bring the game within one. They scored three more in the top of the seventh inning to give them a 6-4 lead, which held until the end of the game. Megan Sowa led the way with three hits in four plate appearances and drove in the final run of the game. Schmidt also won her 17th game of the season.
Sunday was a tight battle for both teams in both games. The first game at noon was a back-and-forth affair that went into extra innings. Drake took a two run lead in the fourth inning behind RBI singles from Sowa and freshman Tasha Alexander, but Bradley chipped away with runs in the next two innings to tie it up and force extra innings. After getting set down in order, Drake allowed three consecutive singles to give Bradley the win, 3-2. Schmidt took the loss on the mound in relief of Newman.
In game two, Drake struggled early as Bradley scored four runs in the third inning behind two doubles, a dropped third strike and a three-run homer.
Drake did respond with three in the next inning behind singles from Alexander and Sarah Ryan to make it a one-run game. However, that was all the offense Drake could muster as Bradley took the game 4-3. Schmidt fell to 17-12 with both losses.
The Bulldogs are set to take on Creighton in Omaha in a doubleheader today. The Bulldogs return to Ron Buel Field over the weekend for the final series of the regular season against Illinois State.
The Bulldogs currently sit atop the conference by half a game over Missouri State.