Demons double up Pirates

Sometimes the bounces just keep going the right way. For junior pitcher Hannah Penna and the rest of the DePaul women’s softball team, Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep of Seton Hall showed how good the squad could be if they dominated on the mound and at the plate.

After sophomore Staci Bonezek sent a two-run homer over the fence to lead the Blue Demons to a thrilling 5-4 win in the first game, Penna took the mound and made sure Seton Hall wouldn’t get close in the second.

DePaul ran out to a 6-0 first inning lead and never looked back, cruising to an 18-5 victory and helping the Blue Demons improve to 20-13, including 7-1 in the Big East.

“It was obviously better than the first (game), obviously the offense really came through in the second game,” said head coach Eugene Lenti. “No matter what pitcher they threw at us . . . we just put the game out of reach.”

It was a complete team effort, but Penna found a way to shine. She improved to 7-5 this season and struck out seven Pirates over four innings. She also went 4-4 six RBI to lead the team in batting as well.

“I was just seeing the ball well,” said Penna. “That’s usually my main problem, I take my eye off the ball. So I was just focusing on seeing it.”

The game time temperature hovered in the 30s, which typically makes it more difficult to hit due to the fact that cold air is denser than warm air. Penna didn’t seem to care.

“I think it’s harder, honestly, to pitch in cold weather than to hit,” said Penna. “The weather really didn’t affect me.”

It certainly didn’t affect her arm because Seton Hall was fishing for anything they could possibly find. Penna set down the side easily in the first inning and breezed through the second inning as well, allowing only one base runner. She ran into some trouble in the third when she walked the leadoff hitter and then allowed two consecutive singles. On the second hit, an error allowed two runs to score. Penna then allowed a home run, and DePaul’s lead was cut to 8-4.

“It was definitely harder to stay in an inning, and then we’re hitting for a long time, and my hand would freeze and then I’d have to go out and pitch,” said Penna.

But she came back in the bottom of the inning and stroked a two-run single up the middle, then scored a run. By the end of the third, DePaul’s lead was 16-4 and any hopes of a Seton Hall comeback were unequivocally crushed.

The game was called after the top of the fifth inning due to the NCAA’s “mercy rule” regulations. DePaul collected 16 hits in the dominating effort and had 25 over the two games. In the first game, junior Kristen Verdun pitched seven strong innings, improving to 13-7 on the season, and the Blue Demons showed that they are hard to beat, whether it’s a doubleheader or otherwise.

But the story of the day was Penna, who had a career afternoon and was the best all-around player on the diamond. Lenti was impressed with the player he dubbed the star of the game.

“As I said to her, ‘who’s the idiot who doesn’t bat you more?'” said Lenti.

“As a pitcher, you feel so much more confident knowing you have offense to back you up,” said Penna.

To say that she helped her own cause would almost be an understatement.