Off the mark: Softball tries to bounce back from a rocky start and rough home opener

Usually, there’s no place like home.For the DePaul softball team, this age-old adage rings true. After nearly two months spent playing on the road, the Blue Demons are finally back in Chicago in the midst of a five-game home stand.

To make the homecoming sweeter, the Blue Demons for the first time get to break in their new digs at Cacciatore Stadium.

Despite dropping their March 30 double-header to Louisville (23-10), the team is eager to move past these losses and focus on their upcoming games, while at the same time enjoying being back in Lincoln Park.

“It’s obviously good to be home because you’re just not traveling, we’ve been traveling a lot,” said Head Coach Eugene Lenti. “It’s definitely been a long time on the road, and it’s good for the girls to be in front of the home crowd in their new stadium, and getting used to their surroundings more or less.”

At this point in many of the softball players’ careers, the scheduling of a long road stretch to begin a season is second nature, which allows them to look past playing in unfamiliar territory to compete.

“All of our players are pretty used to that schedule,” said Lenti. “That’s typical for us to be on the road, that’s typical of all Midwest teams. Very few teams in the Midwest are playing any games at home until the last weekend of March into the first weekend of April.”

While upperclassmen may have an easier time with this schedule, the more inexperienced players on the squad like pitcher Kirsten Verdun, a freshman, are certainly enjoying the perks that come from finally playing at home.

“It was good [to play at home], especially for me. It was like another away game because I’d never played a home game before,” said Verdun. “I liked that we were able to hit before and take our time and it was kinda like our own turf.”

Verdun, who was the first DePaul pitcher to start at the new stadium, cites kicking off a season with so many games on the road as a major factor on how their team might perform.

“Mounds are different, you know, you’re in different elements,” she said. “It’s a comfortability-factor type thing. Yeah, I’d say [starting a season on the road] is more difficult.”

For many of the more experienced players on the team, especially seniors, it is their responsibility to counsel players like Verdun and guide them through the season.

Shortstop Brittney Yniguez, a senior, explained how she and the other seniors will bring the rest of the players together to move past losses and work together as a team.

“We actually had a meeting as a team last weekend while we were at Providence [R.I.] just because we didn’t do that well then,” said Yniguez. “We tried to talk to them and just have them tell us anything that might be going on mentally or physically with them.”

Outfielder Sean Plese, also a senior, echoed this sentiment.

“Yeah we try to keep them in the know, like how some coaches have different styles and we just want to make them aware of what’s going on,” Plese said. “We’ll take our own experiences and just let them know what needs to be done and what they can do.”

The Blue Demons are done traveling for the time being, and won’t hit the road again until April 5. That is when they head to Evanston, Ill., to play one game against Northwestern.

From that point they continue on to Pennsylvania to play Villanova in a three-game Big East series on April 9 and 10.

For now, the Blue Demons can enjoy their time back in Chicago, in front of a home crowd at Cacciatore Stadium.

“It’s a lot of fun [being back home], because we practice here all the time and we’re used to our fans and now we have our new stadium so we’re really excited about that,” said Plese. “Just the little things like our music and being in Chicago, it’s nice.”

“The stadium is obviously beautiful, it was good to see people in the stands, people cheering for us where you could hear them, because they’re basically right in our backyard,” said Lenti. “It looks beautiful, it’s gorgeous, we’re really excited about it and hopefully we’re gonna play better in front of our home crowd after [Wednesday’s losses to Louisville].”

In spite of their losses to begin their home stand, the Blue Demon softball team is ready to move on and start winning at Cacciatore.

“We love playing in the new stadium,” said Yniguez. “We didn’t have a good home opener, but we’re gonna be practicing hard.”

After almost two months, the Demons are finally home.

No place like it.