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Softball Sports

Softball: Bulldogs rely on hitting rallies vs. ISU, Omaha, Loyola

BY MATTHEW GOGERTY

Drake faced in-state rivals Iowa State University on Tuesday evening at home. With a fifth inning rally, they were able to grab the 9-5 win. The Bulldogs then headed to Nebraska on Wednesday for two games against the Omaha Flames. The Bulldogs’ nine-game winning streak was snapped in the first game of the double header with an 8-0 loss. The Bulldogs recovered for game two, both at the plate and in the field, and won 10-4.

Iowa State

It was a somber beginning for the Bulldogs against Iowa State, scoring four runs in the first inning against Drake senior Mariah McKinnon. The Bulldogs fell behind early, something they weren’t used to, after struggling to make contact early. In the five games prior to this the Bulldogs have only given up four total first inning hits.

McKinnon pitched the first three innings before Kailee Smith replaced her in the top of the fourth and managed to get ISU off-track, motivated by her prior meeting with the Cyclones.

“Last spring, I pitched against them, and it didn’t go well. So I went in looking for vengeance,” Smith said. “I knew I could trust my defense, and I knew I could trust myself to get the outs.”

With Smith controlling the game from the mound, the turning point for Drake’s offense came in the bottom of the fifth.

ISU led 5-1 when Tasha Alexander jump-started Drake with a leadoff home run to right. This started a chain reaction that would last for the next 30 minutes. Through a litany of walks, errors and two pitching changes with ISU in the field, Drake was able to finish the inning with an 8-5 lead, capped by Alexander’s second and third RBIs of the inning as she contributed a one-out, two-run single.

Kelsey Wright, who had scored the Bulldogs sole run coming into the fifth, recognized the momentum change as a result of Alexander’s big hit.

“This in-state rivalry, there’s no way we’re going to lose,” Wright said. “We all got energy and Tasha’s hit was huge. It started the domino effect.”

Smith was able to hold the Cyclones in check in the following innings, giving up only one more hit. And the Bulldogs were able to tack on one more run to their lead on an RBI-single from Smith. Drake left Ron Buel Field with a comeback victory and riding high on a nine-game winning streak.

“As a team, we all pulled together and got the hits when we needed to, when it counted,” Alexander said.

The Bulldogs hit the road following their victory against ISU to face Omaha in a doubleheader the next day.

Omaha — Game One

Drake suffered a strange turn of events in the first game. After a big hitting performance against ISU, Omaha’s Laura Roecker hurled a no-hitter against the Bulldogs, while Drake’s pitchers gave up nine hits.

Sophomore Nicole Newman opened the game against what seemed to be an untamable Omaha offense. Omaha scored three runs in the first, followed by another three-run inning in the third. Five of those runs were earned, lifting Newman’s ERA from 2.26 up to 2.48.

McKinnon relieved Newman in the fourth and surrendered two more runs, one of which was earned. The only runners that were able to reach base came on walks for the Bulldogs, and the game ended with a mercy rule walk-off home run for Omaha.

Omaha — Game Two

In the second game, the Bulldogs seemed to revive themselves while also shutting down Omaha’s hitters.

The Bulldogs were able to get a hit and score a run in the first inning to strike early.

Determined to not fall like they did in the first game, and with McKinnon on the mound to start, the Bulldogs were able to hold the Flames offense back.

McKinnon, whose season ERA was over 10 through six games, has been performing better as of late. Her season ERA is now 5.92. Against Omaha, she only gave up two runs in three innings of work before being relieved by Smith.

Coming into the fifth inning, the Bulldogs and Flames were tied at 4-4. And then, eerily similar to their ISU performance, the Bulldogs used a big inning to pull ahead.

In another litany of walks and hits, the Bulldogs were able to score four runs in the inning and batted around the order to take an 8-4 lead.

The Flames couldn’t put it together behind the plate thereafter, and the Bulldogs were able to score two more times following the fifth inning rally, finishing the game at 10-4. With 11 hits, the Bulldogs were able to put their performance from the morning behind them.

Loyola — Game One

The Bulldogs were able to jump out to a lead early on in the first game of a doubleheader in Loyola after a rainout the day before and a delay on Sunday, bringing most of their game runs home in the first.

With runners on base, Kennedy Frank was able to score on an error, and Ashlie Chambers was able to bring home two RBIs moments later. In total the Bulldogs had three runs and four hits in the first inning.

Newman pitched all seven innings in the first game. In a usual display for the three-time MVC Player of the Week, she had 12 strikeouts out of 26 batters faced and only gave up two hits, aiding her already low ERA of 2.34.

The Bulldogs were able to score once more in the top of the fifth inning to win 4-0 and ended the game with eight hits.

Loyola — Game Two

In the first inning of the second game, the Bulldogs continued to display their skills from the plate and their ability to get runners home. The big play was Kailee Smith’s home run to the right side of center field, which garnered three RBIs. Sowa scored on the homer after reaching base on an RBI-single prior to Smith’s home run, the inning ended with a four-run lead for the Bulldogs.

After a quiet second inning for both sides. The Bulldogs were able to come out in the third and pick up some more hits. With Smith again smashing another three-run home run, this time to left-center. She finished the game with six RBIs, bringing her total to 22 on the season.

The Ramblers were able to get more hits in this game than they did in the previous matchup, but still finished with just six as compared to the Bulldogs’ seven.

Mariah McKinnon opened the game on the mound for the Bulldogs, with Newman relieving her midway through the game. McKinnon struck out six batters, facing 18 batters total, and gave up four runs. Newman brought home the win, with seven strikeouts of her own.

The final score was Drake 7, Loyola 5.

Up Next

The Bulldogs hosted Creighton Tuesday night and then headed to Iowa City for a game tonight against the University of Iowa. They will host Missouri State in a three-game conference series this weekend.

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