Softball sweeps competition in first tournament after disappointing end to 2021 season


DePaul Athletics

DePaul softball graduate student shortstop Maranda Gutierrez standing in a hitting stance against Valparaiso on Feb. 10.

The DePaul softball team kicked off their season over the weekend at the 2022 DePaul Dome Tournament, where the Blue Demons swept the competition and won all four games.

Last year, the Blue Demons finished the regular season with an overall record of 25-11 and a Big East record of 13-1. The team dominated at home, winning all 10 games at Cacciatore Stadium. After the team’s success in the regular season, they were named the Big East Coaching Staff of the Year, led by head coach Tracie Adix-Zins.

The Blue Demons, who had won the last three Big East Championships, finished the 2021 regular season as the regular season conference champions, but fell short at the Big East Tournament after losing to Butler and Villanova.

DePaul has four graduate students who returned with a vengeance after falling short of a fourth-straight conference title in 2021 — Maranda Gutierrez, Natalie Halvorson, Sylor Hilger and Kate Polucha.

Gutierrez, a shortstop, had 27 hits and 18 runs batted in, along with a .949 fielding percentage in the 2021 season. Halvorson, a right handed pitcher, had a 2.87 earned runs average. Second baseman Hilger had 22 hits and six RBIs with a .986 fielding percentage. Outfielder Polucha had 33 hits and 23 RBIs with a .957 fielding percentage.

Also returning are dominant hitters Brooke Johnson, Tori Meyer and Nicole Sullivan. Johnson, a junior first baseman, had 31 hits and 24 RBIs last year. Also a junior, outfielder Meyer had 15 hits and 13 RBIs. Sullivan, a sophomore third baseman, had 19 hits and 15 RBIs in her debut season.

The Blue Demons added six new members to the team. Along with four freshmen, two transfers also joined the Blue Demons’ roster — junior outfielder Grace Frazier and graduate student right-handed pitcher Sarah Lehman.

Back in action in 2022, DePaul looked to bounce back after their 2021 season finish, and did just that over the weekend, defeating all four teams at the DePaul Dome Tournament.

“I was very impressed with just about every aspect of our playing this weekend,” Gutierrez said. “Our pitching, defense and offense competed well. Overall, I loved how we played as a team and had each other’s backs.”

The tournament opened against Valparaiso on Friday, where the Blue Demons 8-0 shutout victory in five innings. Guitierrez led the team with three hits and two RBIs in three at bats. The next night, DePaul took on Western Michigan and won 4-3. Polucha had a sacrifice fly that brought in two runs.

In a double header on Saturday, the Blue Demons had victories against St. Thomas, who they defeated 8-3 with Sullivan leading the team with two hits that brought in five runs. The team then defeated Murray State 3-2 at night, where Johnson had a hit that brought in two.

“I am pumped about the 4-0 weekend, but I feel like what made that possible was the intent to take one game at a time,” Sullivan said. “Our team this weekend did a really good job stealing outs, winning the pitch and doing what we needed to do in the moment to get it done. As the season goes on and the competition gets tougher, I think you will continue to see that mentality throughout the year and I am really excited for that.”

The Blue Demons look to continue their success next week at the San Diego Classic to take on Iowa, San Diego, Oregon State and South Dakota State.