Drake Travels To MVC Championship
NORMAL, Ill. – Drake, the No. 6 seed in the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Championship starts tournament play on Thursday, May 8 at 1:35 p.m. against the seventh-seeded Loyola Ramblers. The winner advances to play No. 3 seed, Southern Illinois, that evening at 6:30 p.m. Both of Thursday’s games will have a free online video stream at valley-live.tv/. Live stats will be available at www.GoDrakeBulldogs.com.
LAST TIME OUT
The Iowa State Cyclones beat the Drake Bulldogs (19-32, 11-14 MVC), 6-4, in the final regular season contest for the Bulldogs. The Cyclones used a four run third inning to take control of the game in Ames. Freshman Megan Sowa (Gurnee, Ill.) went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in and three doubles. Drake had six hits and drew nine walks, but stranded 11 base runners as Iowa State salvaged a split in the season series.
The top eight teams in the final league standings qualify for the annual MVC Tournament. The winner of the single elimination tournament in Normal earns a berth to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs have qualified for the Valley tournament under head coach Rich Calvert 10 times out of the 12 seasons he has led the program. In 2008, the Drake softball team claimed the tournament title and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.
DRAKE IN THE MVC TOURNAMENT
The Bulldogs have captured three MVC Tournament titles in school history (1993, 1994, 2008) and have finished tournament runner-up twice (1997, 2011). Drake is 28-37 all-time in the conference tournament, including 7-9 overall under Calvert. Last season, Drake fell 2-1 to Evansville, in eight innings, in the semifinals of the tournament.
The Loyola Ramblers finished its first year in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 22-30 overall record and an 11-15 record in league play. Senior Lauren Moore is hitting .281 with a team-leading seven home runs, 14 doubles and 32 RBI. The Ramblers are led in the circle by senior Brittany Gardner, who is 16-14 with a 2.84 earned run average along with 152 strikeouts. Loyola won two out of three games in the regular season series with Drake.
Drake senior Liz Buck (Olathe, Kan.) launched her first career home run in Sunday’s win over Bradley as the Bulldogs took two of three games against the Braves to secure a berth in the conference tournament. Buck’s solo blast came in the second inning off of Bradley ace Madeline Lynch-Crumrine. It easily cleared the right field wall and gave the Bulldogs their first run of the game. Buck entered Sunday’s game with 146 career appearances and 321 career at-bats without a home run in her college career.
Junior Laura Brewer (Waukee, Iowa) Brewer leads the team in home runs with nine and runs batted in with 34. She entered her junior campaign with just one career home run and 19 career RBIs. She blistered MVC pitching during the regular season with a .351 batting average along with eight home runs and 23 runs batted in. Her eight home runs during Valley play was tied for the second best total in the league.
Junior Rebekah Schmidt (Cottage Grove, Minn.) has settled in to the ace role in the circle for the Bulldogs as she has won nine of her last 10 decisions. She is 16-11 overall along with a 3.48 earned run average and 134 strikeouts in 213 innings pitched. The junior has 436 career strikeouts, which ranks fifth all-time in Drake history. Schmidt is also producing at the plate this year with a .255 batting average, six home runs, six doubles and 21 runs batted in.
Senior Amy Pierce (Olathe, Kan.), who has started 182 consecutive games and every game at shortstop for the Bulldogs the past three seasons, is having an outstanding final season. She is hitting .294 along with a team-high nine doubles, six home runs, 24 runs batted in and a team-leading 25 stolen bases. She is already the school’s record holder in career runs scored and stolen bases and will look to climb the charts in several other statistical categories before her career concludes, including career batting average, doubles, hits, home runs and runs batted in.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Pierce swiped eight stolen bases in three games against Loyola earlier this spring, including four in Drake’s 6-4 comeback win over the Ramblers on March 29. She owns the top two individual stolen base season totals in school history, nabbing 26 last season and 25 her sophomore campaign.
Buck 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 .234 and has driven in a career-high 13 runs.
IT’S OUT OF HERE
Junior Hayley Nybo (Minnetonka, Minn.) has blasted four home runs and driven in 22 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 is third all-time in career RBIs with 102.
Freshman Megan Sowa (Gurnee, Ill.) has established herself at the plate and in the outfield for Drake in her first season. The freshman is hitting a team-leading .393 behind a team-high 55 hits and also leads the team in triples with two, on-base percentage at .469 and is second in steals with seven. She has started the last 47 games and appeared in 50 this season. She has flashed a solid glove in left field with just one error, 68 putouts and a stellar .986 fielding percentage.
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.
DRAKE PICKED THIRD
The Bulldogs were 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.