DePaul Softball loses in Big East semifinals



The DePaul softball team huddles to discuss the quarter-final game against St. John’s on May 11. The team’s season lasted three months and ended with a 4-1 loss to Villanova on Friday.

After 14 long weeks full of ups and downs, DePaul made a strong impression in the Big East Tournament, winning two games and advancing to the semifinals, only to suffer a 4-1 loss to rival Villanova to end their season.

Preseason expectations from the Big East had DePaul holding the number one spot in the conference. After a 4-0 start, the team proceeded to go 8-29, plummeting to the very bottom of the conference, but a late turnaround showed they were not done yet. 

Prior to DePaul’s weekend series against the top-seeded UConn Huskies, the team was on a nine-game losing streak and seemed virtually eliminated from contention for the Big East Tournament. However, a mathematical chance to stay alive with a series win against UConn and a subsequent sweep to Georgetown was necessary to secure the sixth and final spot in the tournament. 

The Blue Demons took the first two games and won the series against UConn before falling short in the series finale. With a conference record of 6-15, DePaul faced an uphill battle to secure a tournament spot. They defied the odds and swept the Georgetown Hoyas, scoring 25 runs in three games and revitalizing their season. 

Against all expectations, they managed to sneak into the Big East Tournament as the sixth seed. 

DePaul athletics did not make student athletes nor coaching staff members available to the DePaulia for comments after the games. 

The first matchup for DePaul was Wednesday, May 10 against the No. 3-seeded Seton Hall Pirates as both teams took the field in Storrs, Connecticut and battled for an entire seven innings. 

This is the tournament’s first season back in Connecticut after its stint in Chicago’s The Ballpark at Rosemont stadium. 

Freshman pitcher Bella Nigey started the game and delivered, pitching a one hit shutout into the sixth inning as DePaul led 2-0. 

The Blue Demons added two more runs and increased the lead to 4-0 headed into the bottom of the sixth. Then, fatigue finally hit Nigey. A couple of base hits and walks put two on with no outs as Seton Hall’s Kelsey Carr homered, making it a 4-3 game. 

Head coach Tracie Adix-Zins pulled Nigey from the game, replacing her with freshman Abbey Pochie. Pitchers struggled throughout the season but saw success from time to time. With a short pitching staff, Adix-Zin’s options were limited. 

Heading into the bottom of the seventh, DePaul maintained a 4-3 lead. Pochie struggled to find the strike zone, giving up a walk and two hits in the inning.

Tied at four with two outs and bases loaded, Pochie had a 3-2 count and, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, gave up a single to center field that drove in the winning walk-off run to win it for Seton Hall, 5-4. 

In the double elimination tournament, it meant DePaul was still alive. Just an hour following the loss to the Pirates, the Blue Demons took the field against Butler and took care of business, winning 4-2 advancing to the next day. 

The Big East expanded its tournament from four teams to six teams this season allowing for two more teams to join. 

Graduate student Brenna Smith pitched the entire seven inning game only giving up two hits and two earned runs in the game. Smith, a Purdue transfer, has been a go-to pitcher for Adix-Zins this season. 

Kacy Standohar, a Big East sideline reporter, interviewed Smith postgame following her complete game against Butler. 

“My teammates are so great,” Smith said. “I knew they would have my back the entire time. I trusted my defense with anything and everyone was cheering for me from the bench. It’s easy to do my job when everybody is supporting you.”

The win scheduled a matchup for the Blue Demons against St. John’s. In the regular season, DePaul was 1-2 against The Red Storm. 

The script flipped in Big East Tournament play. Junior Nicole Sullivan in the lead-off spot had a three RBI game. Seniors Brooke Johnson and Tori Meyers both had three hits, as the DePaul offense scored eight runs. 

Adiz-Zins and her team survived to play another day. Inching close to a potential championship appearance, DePaul’s next task was Villanova. 

A season ago in the Big East Tournament, DePaul was defeated 1-0 by Villanova. The Blue Demons were swept by the Wildcats this season, so they were looking to change the recent narrative of the series. 

The Demons were looking for a revenge game. Pochie took the mound but was relieved in the third inning. DePaul tied the game at one in the fifth inning. After Smith pitched three and two third innings only surrendering one run, Nigey entered and the Wildcats got the best of her. 

Villanova got back-to-back home runs off Nigey in the three batters she faced as the game ended 4-1, which eliminated DePaul. 

Still, what looked to be an underachieving season turned around and extended DePaul’s Big East Tournament appearances to 17 consecutive seasons, according to DePaul athletics.  

DePaul will lose two key outfielders: Meyer and senior Grace Frazier. With the majority of the core returning next season, the Blue Demons could be placed atop the Big East once again in the preseason coaches poll.