Offense goes cold for Blue Demons in elimination game


Alexa Sandler / The DePaulia

DePaul sophomore infielder Maranda Guiterrez hits her second home run of against Providence on Saturday. The Blue Demons won both games on April 13 8-0 and 8-2.

The magic and the offensive prowess that DePaul (35-16; 11-5 Big East) showed throughout most of this season, ran out of steam in their elimination game against James Madison on Saturday in the NCAA Regional in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

After defeating Saint Francis 3-1 in their first elimination game on Saturday, the Blue Demons faced James Madison for the second time in as many days. Just like the first game on Friday, where the Dukes won 5-1, James Madison took care of business again by defeating DePaul 3-0 and advancing to take on No. 15 Michigan in the regional finals.

But the common theme in the Blue Demons 21st  NCAA Tournament appearance was their lack of offensive production. DePaul managed to only score five runs in three games and when their offense was needed the most in their second game against James Madison, it went cold.

The offense that helped carry DePaul to a second place finish in the Big East and a third straight championship in the Big East Tournament, could not save the Blue Demons again. In the Big East, DePaul finished second in runs scored with 245, second in runs batted in with 231 and second in hits with 357 in 51 games. 

Unlike the first meeting between the Blue Demons and the Dukes, where DePaul scored the first run, James Madison was able to score the first run in the first inning off a solo home run. The early run for the CAA Tournament champions set the tone for the rest of the match and the pitching for the Dukes carried them the rest of the way.

For the next four innings both teams’ pitchers kept shutting out the other team’s offense. Junior pitcher Natalie Halvorson got her first start in the NCAA Tournament and was able to limit the damage to only three runs when the Dukes had runners in scoring position multiple times on Saturday.

Halvorson, who transferred to DePaul from Kirkwood community college this season, went 2-0 in the Big East Tournament last week and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after the Blue Demons won their third straight tournament title.

“It feels awesome that we can keep the tradition here at DePaul and be the three-time reigning Big East champs,” Halvorson said on May 11. “This is definitely a bigger stage than what I have been on before, it is not just me today, those wins are everyone; Krista [Dalgarn] closed the game today, she did great, the hitters hit, so the credit is to them.”

While Halvorson was able to do her job by keeping her team within one run through four innings, two runs through six inning and three runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the offense couldn’t return the favor to their star pitcher.

In two games against James Madison, DePaul had to face pitcher Odicci Alexander both times and not only did they manage to just score one run in 11.1 innings, but the Blue Demons could only muster up five hits while striking out nine times.

Even with the lack of scoring through 13 inning against the Dukes, DePaul went into the bottom of the seventh inning only trailing 3-0 and just last week in the Big East Tournament title game against Villanova, they rallied back from six-run deficit to win 11-10.

After struggling through the first six innings to get players on base, DePaul loaded the bases with two outs in the last inning with sophomore Skylor Hilger up to bat. But the Blue Demons offense failed to produce one more moment of magic as Hilger struck out and ending her team’s season.

The only time the Blue Demons offense looked somewhat dangerous was in the fourth inning against Saint Francis where DePaul scored three runs, which proved to be enough for DePaul to get their lone NCAA Tournament victory this season.

For head coach Tracie Adix-Zins, who was in her first season as the head coach at DePaul after Eugene Lenti retired last season, the season might have ended on a sour note with a 1-2 record in her first NCAA Tournament appearance with her alma mater, but she led the Blue Demons to another 30 plus win season and another Big East Tournament title.

“It’s a lot, it’s very overwhelming,” Adix-Zins said after winning the Big East Tournament on May 11. “I think it just shows a lot of how hard [the team] worked. The time we put in over the fall, over the winter and through the spring, it’s a testament to the what we’ve done.”

Adix-Zins will go into her second season losing four key seniors from this seasons team: Morgan Greenwood, Alysia Rodriguez, Brianna Viles and Sabrina Kuchta. But she will look to replace that void left by the seniors with her own recruiting class and gear up for another NCAA Tournament appearance.