Smith's Grand Slam Goes for Naught in 7-6 Loss at Drake
April 11, 2009
DES MOINES - Amber Smith hit a grand slam that appeared to put the win in Illinois State's hands, but Drake (23-15, 8-3 Missouri Valley Conference) came back from six runs down to defeat the Redbird softball team (18-18, 6-7 MVC), 7-6, Saturday afternoon in the Missouri Valley Conference series finale at Buel Field in Des Moines. .
Freshman Jordan Birch (10-8), who came in to pitch in relief of Smith with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, earned the loss for Illinois State. Birch gave up two earned runs, including the game-winner in the fifth inning, while scattering three hits and walking a career-high five batters.
Drake's Jenna DeLong (14-6) earned her second win of the series after she pitched seven innings and shut down the Redbirds over the final five innings. DeLong surrendered six unearned runs in the top of the second before Drake made its comeback.
After being down by six runs at the start of the third inning, Drake battled back with seven runs scored over the next three innings, including a key five-run third inning. The go-ahead run came with one out in the bottom of the fifth, when Molly McClelland blooped a single into left field that scored Torey Craddock and gave Drake a 7-6 lead.
Illinois State capitalized on shaky pitching and fielding by Drake in the top of the second inning to score its first run of the game. After Vaca belted her first-career triple, a walk to Beth Current put runners on the corners with two outs. That's when the Bulldog defense broke down, as a ground ball off the bat of Stansell got under the Bulldog third baseman's glove to score Vaca.
After Carey Gorrell reached on a walk, Smith stepped to the plate and delivered her opposite-field grand slam to give the Redbirds a 5-0 lead. Olson then stepped up with a solo home run one batter later to give the Redbirds' their second back-to-back home run effort in a week. Stansell and Gorrell hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning of Illinois State's win over Missouri State April 4.
Smith's time in the circle did not last long, as Drake tagged her with three runs in the bottom of the third off a three-run opposite-field home run by Elena Leon. Leon's home run was the last batter Smith faced in the game, as she gave way to reliever Chrissy Burton.
Burton's outing was also short-lived after she gave up a double before a fielding error by Stansell led to Drake's fourth run of the game. Then, a triple into right field off the bat of McClelland drove in the Bulldogs' fifth run of the inning and ended Burton's pitching outing after facing only five batters.
Leon completed the Drake comeback with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning when she delivered her second home run of the game - an opposite-field solo shot - as the Bulldogs tied the game, 6-6, after being down by six runs just two innings earlier.
Illinois State will take a break from Missouri Valley Conference action when it travels to Chicago Wednesday for a 3 p.m. doubleheader against No. 21/T-22 DePaul.
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