CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The Drake University softball team coming off a successful weekend at Evansville will have a quick turnaround this week as it travels to in-state rival UNI on Tuesday, April 15. The doubleheader between the Bulldogs and the Panthers will now be played at the UNI Dome due to forecasted cold temperatures in the area. First pitch of the opening game is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Drake returns to Ron Buel Field on Friday, April 18 when first-place Wichita State visits for three games. The two teams will play a doubleheader Friday, starting at 2 p.m., with the series finale set for noon on Saturday.
Drake will make up two of the three previously postponed games at Illinois State with a doubleheader on Monday, April 28 in Normal, Ill. Game one will begin at 3 p.m. The third game of the series will not be made up.
LAST TIME OUT
The Bulldogs finished last week with a 3-1 overall record and claimed their second-straight Missouri Valley Conference series with two wins at Evansville. Drake started the week with a 10-9 home win over Iowa State as the Bulldogs rallied from a 5-0 deficit. Evansville took game one of the weekend series, but Drake bounced back with wins in the final two games, including an 8-0 victory in the finale Sunday.
UNI (21-13, 8-6 MVC) is coming off a tough three games at Wichita State as the Shockers swept the series. The Panthers scored just four runs and were shutout, 8-0 and 6-0, respectively in the last two games. Drake and UNI only played each other one time a year ago, and it counted as a non-conference contest as the Bulldogs beat the Panthers, 6-0, at the UNI-Dome Classic in February. The league series scheduled for the last weekend of the regular season at Ron Buel Field was snowed out.
WICHITA STATE QUICKLY
Wichita State (25-17, 12-3 MVC), who was picked to place eighth in the MVC coaches preseason poll, has not dropped a conference series yet this season. The Shockers are led at the plate by sophomore Cacy Williams, who transferred from Emporia State. Williams is hitting a team-leading .397 along with nine home runs, 12 doubles and 34 runs batted in. She earned the MVC Newcomer of the Week award Monday (April 14) after she went 8-for-15 (.533) at the plate last week.
Drake junior pitcher Rebekah Schmidt (Cottage Grove, Minn.) has won her past seven decisions in the circle to improve her overall record to 12-10. During that span, she has a 3.64 earned run average along with 24 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .225 batting average. At the plate in those 10 games, she is hitting .429 with two home runs, four doubles and nine runs batted in.
Senior Amy Pierce (Olathe, Kan.) is heating as her batting average has climbed to .297 on the year. This past week, she collected five hits in 12 at-bats, including a home run and a double. Pierce, who has started every game at shortstop for the Bulldogs the previous two seasons and this year as well, scored six runs during the week and is now the school’s all-time leader in career runs with 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. She is the school record holder for career stolen bases with 85.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
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.
BLISTERING THE SOFTBALL
Junior Laura Brewer (Waukee, Iowa) went 7-for-13 (.538) at the plate with a double, two runs scored and five runs batted in Drake’s four games last week. She added a .600 on-base percentage and a .615 slugging percentage. Brewer has an eight-game hitting streak and has hit safely in nine out of the last 10 games for the Bulldogs. In Drake’s last 10 contests, she is 16-for-32 (.500) with a home run, three doubles, four runs scored and nine runs batted in. The hot streak has raised her average to .301, which ranks second on the squad.
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 .253 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 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 28 games. Sowa leads the squad in batting average at .340, on-base percentage (.420) and triples (1). She is second in several other statistical categories, including stolen bases (4), walks (14), runs (17), and hits (33).
Drake will host UNI for the final game in the season series on April 23 with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. at Ron Buel Field.
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 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.
DRAKE ADDS THREE IN 2014 RECRUITING CLASS
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.