Drake hosts a Missouri Valley Conference softball tournament beginning Thursday that will feature a new format. Gone is the single elimination format and now seeds three through eight will battle to join the top two seeds in a double elimination tournament. U.N.I. is the fourth seed.

Panther coach Ryan Jacobs says getting into the top four seeds is advantageous, especially when it comes to pitching. He says it helps keep the pitchers fresh when they only have to play one game the first day to make it to the double elimination round. U.N.I. will play the winner of the game between Missouri State and Evansville and will need a win to move on to Friday.

Jacobs says they changed the format to help protect the best teams in the league and to reward those teams for their success during the season.

Drake coach Rich Calvert says the top two seeds deserve to be rewarded for their play during the regular season. He says the old format never had a one versus two play in the championship. Calvert says it rewards the teams that did well during the regular season for that effort.

Drake is the six seed and will need two wins on Thursday to advance. He says the key is to get those wins and make it to Friday. Making a deep run in the tournament will stretch a pitching staff for the lower seeds but Calvert feels the Bulldogs have the depth to do it. Calvert says he thinks they have the best pitching for this format, as they don’t have to rely on one pitcher. He says you have to be able to keep your team in the game with pitching and hopefully scratch out a few runs.