DePaul softball maintains positive outlook through tough stretch


DePaul Athletics

DePaul sophomore Nicole Sullivan has 15 hits and 16 RBIs on the season and was named Big East Player of the Week on Feb. 14.

As DePaul’s softball team approaches the halfway point of the season, the team is experiencing highs and lows that currently have them under the .500 mark. The team started the season strong, winning their first five games, including going undefeated (4-0) in their home tournament that led to their sophomore third basewoman Nicole Sullivan winning Big East Player of the Week.

But the setbacks have since kicked in, losing 12 of their last 16 games. One of the main reasons why the team has been losing is due to playing a very competitive schedule, according to head coach Tracie Adix-Zins.

“We’ve never played this competitive of a schedule since I’ve been here,” Adix-Zins said. “We have a lot more flexibility in pitching and offense this year, so you have that aspect with playing a more challenging schedule.”

The team has played top-tier talent, but they have also done some serious traveling across the country. Outside of the opening home tournament, the team has frequently traveled for weekend games, sometimes spending only a couple of days a week on campus before going back on the road. The daily routines of constant travel within different time zones and playing against the best of the best every weekend can take a heavy toll on the team and players individually.

“We haven’t had that challenge yet until this year,” Adix-Zins said. “We have a lot of players that haven’t experienced that type of travel, type of pitching and facing a lot of top-tier hitting and teams that are in the top 75 in RPI. It’s a lot.”

Oregon State, Florida, Minnesota and Ole Miss are just a few teams that are currently in the top 75 of the NCAA’s Ratings Power Index (RPI) that DePaul has faced within the past month. Yet, the games have all been close.

Despite the challenges, the locker room remains positive. Playing against top-tier talent has been a dream come true for sophomore catcher Zoie Rettig. She expressed excitement for the way the schedule played out.

“When the schedule first came out, we were all excited honestly to be able to compete with these teams,” Rettig said. “We were putting up good numbers. Even though we weren’t winning, they were all close games. It’s been a good experience.”

Sullivan echoed Rettig’s sentiment, stating that the roller coaster of wins and losses is actually beneficial to the team’s growth.

“I don’t think there is any discouragement around the dugout,” Sullivan said. “We are going to big time places and we are not playing badly. If anything we are just more motivated by the way we are producing because we know that when conference season comes around it is going to help us.”

Throughout this stretch, the players have learned different things. For Sullivan, it’s about how humane the players from other teams are.

“We all put our pants on the same way,” Sullivan said. “Going into games realizing that even though these are big schools, we are playing against people that do the same things we do. Going into games like we have nothing to lose and we are here to compete, taking that mindset to every game, at bat and treating everyone’s bats as if they are our own only helps us for conference.”

When it comes to Rettig, these games don’t discourage her, but boost her confidence.

“As I’m going into these games, being able to compete with these other girls from the other teams gives me a boost,” Rettig said. “Being able to stick with these teams is a huge confidence boost as we go into our conference schedule.”

Adix-Zins is pleased with the team’s positivity, elaborating on how the team as of late has been playing very good overall defensively and believes that the team’s offense is close to reaching its potential. But her concerns are related to the inconsistencies throughout the stretch that has led to those tough losses.

“The hardest part of the stretch is that we are up and down,” Adix-Zins said. “Pitching is on but the hitting is off. Hitting is on, but the pitching is off. We are still trying to piece things together.”

Aside from these concerns, Adix-Zins believes that the team overall is still in a good situation.

“It’s not like we are getting crushed,” Adix-Zins said. “We are losing 2-0, 1-0 ball games. We are losing by a couple of runs and we have the ability to push more runs across. We are just struggling to do that.”

Adix-Zins is excited for the opportunity to use the next week to knock out all the kinks and give the teams chances to end the weekend strong with wins before conference play.

Sullivan is ready to take on the challenge.

“Coming off of last season and not getting the end of the year success that we hoped for after an impressive regular season, I think everybody has a fire under them to get the [conference championship] ring at the end of the season,” Sullivan said. “The competitiveness we are playing right now against these topt teams is only going to help us throughout conference play.”