Wichita State and Drake kicked off Missouri Valley Conference softball with vastly different doubleheader games Saturday.
In fact, except for the fact that the Shockers won both, the two games couldn’t have been much more different.
Wichita State (14-10, 2-0) dominated in the opener, blasting the conference-favorite Bulldogs 10-0 in a game shortened to five innings because of the run rule. Katie Malone and Bailey Klitzke combined on a one-hitter for WSU.
But the nightcap was a challenge to Wichita State’s resiliency. Drake (16-11, 0-2) took an early 2-0 lead and led 5-0 going into the bottom of the fifth.
The Shockers’ bats, limited to just three hits in four innings, scored two in the fifth, then came back to life, sparked by Macklin Hitz’s leadoff homer off the scoreboard in left field. WSU loaded the bases, and after Drake twice forced the lead runner at home, Mackenzie Wright’s hustle allowed her to score the Shockers’ fourth run from first base on Kelli Spring’s fielder’s choice.
This turned out to be a glimpse of what was to come two innings later, when Spring laid down a bunt single, and Wright again scored all the way from first, thanks to two Drake errors, clinching the second game.
“I knew I was the winning run, so I was just focused on home plate,” Wright said. “I wasn’t stopping.”
Freshman Madison Perrigan celebrated her birthday by driving in the tying run on a high chopper to left field.
“I was just thinking, ‘Hit a high, solid ground ball so I could score the runner on third,’ ” she said. “Try to get nothing in the air, so we had a chance at scoring her.”
Meanwhile, Malone – who relieved starter Jenni Brooks in the third inning and surrendered a two-run homer to the second hitter she faced, Drake pitcher Kailee Smith – settled down after giving up a run in the fourth. Once the Shockers started coming back, the fire Malone had showed in the opener came forth and led to four innings of one-hit relief. She was the winning pitcher in both games.
“Obviously, when my offense gives me nine, 10 runs, it’s a whole lot easier to just kind of wing it in there and just trust myself,” Malone said. “When I don’t have as many runs, I have to be more careful about where I place it. It’s lot easier when I have the runs and have my offense behind me.”
Easy or hard, Shocker coach Kristi Bredbenner was just pleased for the victories.
“That’s always the way it is,” she said. “I told the girls at the beginning of the second game (that) it’s never easy to beat the team twice when you run-ruled them the first game.
“The bottom line is, we fought, and we fought hard and were able to come back and get the ‘W.’”
Perrigan hurt the Bulldogs with her bat, but also with her throwing arm, nailing three base stealers in the second game.
“That’s huge,” Bredbenner said. “They’re a very aggressive running team, and she came up firing.”
In the opener, the Shockers were able to cruise behind Malone and broke the game open with a six-run second inning, sparked by shortstop Laurie Derrico’s grand slam.
“My mindset is to shorten up and swing at the right pitches, and everyone else on the team is doing that, too,” Derrico said. “I haven’t had success with the bases loaded since the beginning of the season, so I was thinking to swing at the right pitches and shorten up (her swing) and it worked out in my favor.”
0 1 1
10 8 1
W: Malone (11-6). L: Smith (7-6). HR: WSU, Derrico.
WSU batting: Wright 2-2, Canada 0-1, Spring 0-1, Derrico 2-3, Kelsheimer 0-1, Hitz 0-2, Palmer 0-1, Perrigan 2-2, Luellen 0-1, Jamele 1-3, Buck 0-1, Johnson 1-3.
WSU pitching: Malone 4-0 (ip-er), Klitzke 1-0.
5 10 3
6 9 1
W: Malone (12-6). L: Smth (7-7). HR: Drake, Smith; WSU, Hitz.
WSU batting: Wright 1-3, Spring 2-3, Derrico 1-3, Perrigan 1-4, Luellen 0-3, Jamele 2-4, Hitz 1-4, Buck 0-3, Johnsn 1-3.
WSU pitching: Brooks 2-3, Malone 6-2.