STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
Drake maintained their lead in the Missouri Valley Conference this weekend by sweeping an energetic Loyola University team in a three game series.
Pitcher Rebekah Schmidt, who started two of the three games and also drove in four runs throughout the series, paced the Bulldogs on the way to their three conference wins.
The sweep moves the Bulldogs to 20-12 overall and are 8-2 in conference play. Drake is now 4-0 against Loyola this season.
“It feels great to get the sweep and finish the whole weekend,” said infielder Laura Brewer on Saturday. “We didn’t do that the last few weeks.”
Drake started off game one on Friday afternoon with a bang, beating the Ramblers 11-3 behind 11 hits and 11 walks. Schmidt drove in two runs despite only registering one official at-bat, a careful eye earning her three walks in the game. Joining the RBI parade at two was second baseman Kelsey Wright, pitcher Kailee Smith and third baseman Kathryn Finneran.
Schmidt pitched a complete game, only allowing four hits while striking out seven Ramblers in the first game of a doubleheader.
The second game of the day was a little closer, as Drake had to fight back from a 1-0 deficit.
It took until the fifth inning for the bats to get going, but left fielder Megan Sowa got things started with a single, one of her three hits in the game. Brewer followed that up with a ringing double to score Sowa. Brewer then traded places with right fielder Hayley Nybo on a double to put Drake up 2-1.
Freshman pitcher Nicole Newman took the mound and held it throughout the whole game, allowing four hits while striking out eight. Those eight strikeouts give her 83 on the year, leading the MVC in strikeouts per game.
“We’ve played really well. It’s amazing how every game can change,” Schmidt said. “It was fun to have timely hits like we did.”
On Saturday the Bulldogs pulled off the sweep, taking down the Ramblers 4-1 behind another timely offensive performance from Schmidt and her teammates. Again, it took until the fifth for scoring to commence, but after falling behind 1-0 it was Drake’s turn to respond.
Brewer put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a bases loaded single to score the first run.
Two batters later, with one out, Schmidt made contact and tapped the ball just in front of home plate. The catcher scooped up the ball and tagged out Schmidt as Sowa crossed home plate.
Some confusion on the play led to the Ramblers thinking they had made the third out and held the Bulldogs to just one run in the inning, but there were still just two outs and Wright was able to score amid Loyola’s celebration.
Upset about the inning not being over, Loyola head coach Jeff Tylka stormed out of the dugout to argue with the umpire, but got a little too heated and was tossed out of the game. The ejection came much to the delight of the home fans, cheering as Tylka was forced to leave the field.
Schmidt was pulled at the end of the inning as Drake was on top 3-1, Newman hoping to seal the game in the final two innings.
One run, four hits and two walks were given up by Schmidt, but she still managed to strike out three batters in five innings of work.
In the sixth, Newman closed the game and threw two shutout innings, surrendered just two hits and struck out one batter on the way to her first career save.
Schmidt picked up the win, her 11th win of the season.
“Bekah did a good job and being able to come and close it out feels great,” Newman said after the game.
Drake Softball will be busy this week, having faced Nebraska Tuesday in a doubleheader against the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University on Wednesday. They will face Southern Illinois University in a conference series this weekend on the road, before returning home for a doubleheader against Northern Iowa on April 14.