One game at a time’ mantra working for DePaul softball

As the season continues to draw closer to an end, the red-hot Blue Demons’ softball team is heading into the post-season with a perfect Big East record, a win-streak that hasn’t happened since 2011 and the Big East regular season title.

It’s been quite a turnaround for DePaul after missing the NCAA tournament in 2013, only the second time in 17 years that they would miss earning a bid. This year, they will be the number one seed in the Big East tournament and have put themselves into a great position to earn an at-large bid if they do not earn an automatic bid by winning the Big East tournament.

With the season winding down, however, the four DePaul seniors aren’t focused on the NCAA tournament or their own ticking clocks as their collegiate careers come to a close.

“We just want to finish strong and have fun the rest of the way out,” senior pitcher Hannah Penna said.

These Blue Demons are no stranger to the success they’ve been having this season. As freshmen, they were part of the 2011 campaign that saw DePaul finish at No. 24 in the nation with a record of 41- 15. That team also had a 16-game winning streak that season, which DePaul passed this weekend against Villanova. With the three-game sweep, they now stand at 18 games and counting.

Regardless, the only thing the Blue Demons are worried about is taking each game one at a time.

“We don’t really talk about how many games that we’ve won,” senior outfielder Megan Coronado said. “We just take it a game at a time and win it.”

“(Head softball coach Eugene Lenti) really stresses ‘living in the moment,’ making sure we’re staying as a team in the moment,everyinning,everygame,”Senior pitcher and first baseman Kirsten Verdun said. “We’re riding out our win streak and we’re playing really good softball right now and I think that everybody is really on the same page and that’s what’s getting us there.”

Even with the final game at Cacciatore Stadium this season happening Wednesday against Northwestern, the seniors aren’t worried about their careers coming to a close.

“I haven’t really thought about it being our last game because I feel like we’re doing really well,” Coronado said. “We’re coming on to the end of our season really strong so I feel like we’ll keep going.”

“We love that our families are here and a lot of special people are coming to support us,” Senior shortstop Ali Braden said. “But I think that because it’s not the last game of our season it’s not something that we’re worried about.”

Following Wednesday’s matchup with Northwestern, DePaul travels to Butler over the weekend for a three game series with the Bulldogs. From there, they’ll be the top seed in the Big East tournament at the Ballpark at Rosemont May 9-10. Even if they do not win the four-team, single elimination tournament, they feel confident that they’re in a position to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.

“I think that we have put ourselves into a position where we feel like we can win the Big East and get a bid,” Verdun said. “And we feel like we could also get an at- large bid if we didn’t win the Big East, which kind of takes the pressure off a little bit.”

Entering the weekend, DePaul was ranked 34th in the nation, which is presumptively good enough at this point for the Demons to earn a bid to the 64- team tournament. After the long win streak stretching back to mid-March, the Blue Demons know what kind of softball they are capable of. Verdun said as long as DePaul continues to play at that level, there’s no end in sight.

“For me anyways I don’t really see the end in sight,” she said. “We’re just trying to win as many games as possible and put ourselves into a position to be successful, go to regionals and play like we’re capable of.”

This past weekend, DePaul showed just what they were capable of against Villanova. After the Blue Demon pitching staff allowed one run in the double-header Saturday, Kirsten Verdun threw a no-hitter in five innings while the offense exploded for 15 runs in the 15-0 rout Sunday. If that is what they’re capable of, then there really is no end in sight for DePaul.