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Drake Set To Host UNI Before Six-Game Road Trip

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
Release: April 22, 2014
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DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University softball team will welcome in-state rival Northern Iowa to Ron Buel Field on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for the regular season finale between the two teams. After the contest with the Panthers, the Bulldogs will play their next six games on the road, starting with a trip to Indiana State for a three-game series this weekend (April 26-27). Following the series with the Sycamores, Drake will stop in Normal, Ill. on Monday, April 28 to make up two previously postponed games against Illinois State. The final road game will be Wednesday, April 30 when the Bulldogs step out of conference play to visit Nebraska Omaha.


Drake (14-28, 6-11 MVC) split a doubleheader at UNI last Tuesday (April 15) as the Bulldogs won the first game, 4-1, but the Panthers took the second game, 6-0. Both games were played in the UNI-Dome.

Following the pair of games in Cedar Falls, the Missouri Valley Conference leaders, the Wichita State Shockers, came to Ron Buel Field for a three-game weekend series that was played Friday (April 18) and Saturday (April 19). The Shockers swept the Bulldogs, but every game was tightly contested with two one-run outcomes of 2-1 and 8-7, and a 4-2 WSU victory in between.


UNI (24-15, 11-8 MVC) dropped two out of three games to Missouri State this past weekend in Cedar Falls. The Bears easily swept the first two games, 10-0 and 9-1, respectively, but UNI salvaged the series with a 6-5 win in the finale. Sophomore Chelsea Ross was named MVC Pitcher of the Week Monday after her efforts last week. She opened the week with seven scoreless innings against the Bulldogs, while allowing just one hit and striking out eight.


Indiana State (24-22, 6-13 MVC) will travel to new MVC member Loyola Tuesday night for the rubber match between the two teams. The Sycamores won one out of three games versus Bradley this past weekend in Terre Haute. Indiana State is led by senior Morgan Alee who leads the team with a .391 batting average and .503 on base percentage. Alee also leads the team with six home runs, 26 RBI’s, 33 runs scored and 52 hits along with an MVC-leading 28 stolen bases and a .624 slugging percentage.


Drake and Illinois State (21-25, 12-8 MVC) were originally scheduled to play three games back on March 15-16, but snow and cold temperatures forced a postponement of the series. The teams will make up two of the three games on Monday, with first pitch of game one set for 3 p.m. Illinois State has won four straight, including a three-game sweep of Evansville last weekend. The Redbirds will welcome Bradley on Tuesday night for a midweek in-state clash before visiting Missouri State this upcoming weekend.


Drake junior Laura Brewer (Waukee, Iowa) had a career day in the series finale versus Wichita State. She launched a career-high three home runs and drove in a career-best six runs. She ended the week with four home runs and eight RBI. She now leads the team in home runs with six and runs batted in with 25. Coming into 2014, she had one career home run. In her last 10 games, Brewer is hitting a blistering .433 with four home runs, six runs scored and 13 RBI.


Junior pitcher Rebekah Schmidt (Cottage Grove, Minn.) had an impressive eight-game winning streak in the circle snapped last week at the hands of Wichita State. In Friday’s second game against the Shockers, she allowed two runs on four hits in 5.2 innings pitched as she took her first loss in the circle since March 30 against Loyola. The two runs came on a two-run home run by Brittany Fortner in the third inning as the Shockers held on for a 2-1 victory. Schmidt is 13-11 overall with a 3.58 earned run average along with 115 strikeouts. She is producing at the plate as well with a .274 batting average to go along with three home runs, six doubles and 12 runs batted in.


Senior Amy Pierce (Olathe, Kan.), who has started every game at shortstop for the Bulldogs the previous two seasons and this year as well, is the school’s all-time leader in stolen bases (87) and runs (129). She will look to climb several more statistical categories this season. She is among the top-10 in at-bats, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in and batting average. Pierce is on the edge of cracking the top three in doubles, home runs and runs batted in.


Pierce swiped eight stolen bases in the three games against Loyola earlier this spring, including four in Drake’s 6-4 comeback win over the Ramblers. She owns the top two individual stolen base season totals in school history, nabbing 26 last season and 25 her sophomore campaign.


Senior Liz Buck (Overland Park, Kan.) has provided a steady hand at first base with her defense her first three seasons, but entered 2014 with a career batting average of just .189. However, this year along with her usual solid defensive skills, Buck is hitting .224 and has driven in a career-high 13 runs.


Junior Hayley Nybo (Minnetonka, Minn.) has blasted four home runs and driven in 20 runs in 2014. Nybo has 23 career blasts, which ranks third all-time in school history. Elena Leon is the school’s all-time leader in home runs with 33. Nybo recently moved into third all-time in career RBI’s with 101.


Freshman Megan Sowa (Gurnee, Ill.) has settled in the outfield in her first season, starting the last 35 games. Sowa leads the squad in batting average at .367, on-base percentage (.453), walks (17) and triples (1). She is second in several other statistical categories, including stolen bases (5) and runs (20). Pierce and Sowa are tied for the most hits on the squad with 40.


The Bulldogs’ final road game of the six-game road swing will be April 30 when they step out of conference play to take on Nebraska Omaha. Drake returns to Ron Buel Field on May 3 when it hosts Bradley in its final MVC regular season action. The Bulldogs conclude the 2014 regular season with a visit to Iowa State on May 6.


Drake captured the Woo Pig Fastpitch Classic title on March 1 with a 3-1 record, including a 7-4 victory over then No. 24 Arkansas in the title game. The Bulldogs avenged a 10-6 loss to the Razorbacks in the first meeting between the teams in the two-day tournament. Drake added wins over Louisiana Tech and Stephen F. Austin in Fayetteville. Sowa hit a blistering .545 in the classic as her average led the team, going 6-for-11 at the plate along with two runs scored and three runs batted in in the four games. The outfielder recorded four hits, two RBI and two runs scored in a pair of contests against the Razorbacks. Sowa’s big weekend in Arkansas propelled her to taking home the Missouri Valley Conference Softball Newcomer of the Week award.


The Bulldogs have been picked third in the Missouri Valley Conference’s annual preseason poll, the conference office announced in January. Northern Iowa, the defending MVC tournament champion, was unanimously voted number one followed by Illinois State with 83 points. Drake tallied 82 points.


The Bulldogs inked Nicole Newman (Madison, Wis.), Kailee Smith (Murrieta, Calif.) and Kelsey Wright (Olathe, Kan.) to National Letters of Intent this past November, 2013.

Newman, a pitcher and first baseman from Madison La Follette High School, went 15-4 with a 0.44 earned run average and 311 strikeouts in the circle for the Lancers her junior season. She earned first team all-state honors and was named the Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year and the Wisconsin State Journal/Wisconsin PrepZone.com Area Player of the Year. Newman also plays basketball and earned several honors last season on the hardwood after averaging 18.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.

Smith, a versatile player who has logged time at pitcher, first base and in the outfield, is from Murrieta, Calif. A three-year letterwinner for Paloma Valley High School, she earned All Inland Valley honors her junior season after hitting .406 with six home runs and recording a 1.44 ERA in the circle.

Rounding out the class is Wright from Olathe Northwest High School who hit .581 with a .805 slugging percentage last season on her way to being named first-team all-state. A three-year letterwinner in the infield for the Ravens she helped Northwest capture the Kansas 6A state championship her freshman season.

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