Emerging from the preseason tournament portion of their schedule, Drexel University’s softball team had certainly shown flashes of potential. An undefeated, albeit abbreviated, Lady Pirate Classic was followed up with a 5-5 performance at the rebel games, which had its highs (such as the 14-4 triumph over Hampton), but also its lows (a 1-10 loss to Bucknell capped off the Orlando trip).
This same see-saw trend of inconsistency continued to play out in the early portion of season play. A strong 2-3 start with wins over Norfolk State and North Carolina Central (the latter via a 13-3 mercy rule) was counterbalanced by a string of four consecutive losses at the hands of UNC Greensboro, Elon, and City Six rival Villanova.
With that in mind, entering last Wednesday’s double header with Lafayette, the script of this season was still very much unwritten. The stretch of five games in five days provided Drexel a perfect opportunity to establish a strong rhythm entering Colonial Athletic Association play.
In the first leg, the bats simply didn’t come alive for the Dragons, who were unable to score a single run after Kristi Uyesaka’s first inning RBI single, spoiling an otherwise strong start by Taylor Lee. The immediate turnaround of the doubleheader format left no time for dwelling on disappointment.
The two teams appeared to be evenly matched, and continued to play like it in the second game, which quickly turned into a pitcher’s duel between the Leopard’s Lindsey Cherry and the Drexel’s Tara Konopka.
After 3 innings of clean sheets for both pitchers, Drexel finally broke through in the bottom of the 4th with an 8 run outburst. A string of RBI singles by Drexel’s 1-4 hitters in the lineup blew the game wide open and Konopka’s stifling performance promptly shut the door on a comeback in the following frame, cementing the much-needed victory.
Drexel’s potent offensive production, as has seemingly been the case for much of the year, was unable to carry through to the rest of the week’s games. In two games against Delaware on Saturday, the lineup was able to produce just 3 runs.
In the first game, each portion of offensive production was bettered by Delaware in their half of the inning, ultimately ending in a 6-2 defeat. The second game was not much different offensively. By the time that the Dragons scored a run in the top of the third inning, Delaware had already jumped ahead to an 8-0 advantage. A 9-1 victory completed the sweep for the home Hens, leaving Drexel searching for answers at the plate.
The two teams met again just a day later to finish up the in-conference series, and this time, the mutual familiarity payed off in a lot of players from both teams crossing the plate. Drexel opened the festivities with a Kai Uyesaka RBI double, but Delaware was able to absorb this early punch and deliver a decisive blow of their own, tagging starter Tara Konopka with a 5 run opening inning.
Drexel would not go away quietly though this time. Paula Ueno’s 2 RBI triple highlighted a 3 run fifth, and Kai Uyesaka’s single just an inning later tied up the ballgame at 6. After pulling ahead 9-7 by the end of the 5th, it appeared that the Dragons were poised to end the weekend on a high note.
Unfortunately, the Hens did not have the same feeling. After a crushing 6 run Delaware outburst in the bottom of the 6th inning, the Dragons simply didn’t have enough firepower to respond. A disappointing 13-10 defeat drove home the theme of the week – not enough consistency in either stage of the game.
That said, the Dragon’s did have a consolation prize for the week’s performances. On April 4 the CAA announced that Drexel’s senior Paula Ueno was named co-player of the week. The senior shortstop did her best to will her side to victory, hitting a staggering .684 from the plate, including 2 perfect 4-4 showings against Delaware.
Ueno’s performance last week was a continuation of her hot streak this season in which she has driven in 23 runs while maintaining a pristine .419 average. If the Dragons are to break their current slump, it’s fair to say they have just the player who can lead the way.