Redemption: Demons endure season of adversity, find success in Big East Tourney


Lucas Paredes

After going 8-29 in the middle parts of the season, DePaul took two of three against UConn and swept Georgetown making the Big East Tournament.

After being considered the Big East front runner in the preseason coaches poll, DePaul encountered a season of adversity. With the high expectations, the team faced a series of setbacks, including an eight-game losing streak, followed by challenges posed by an inexperienced pitching staff and offense that struggled to recapture its previous success.

In spite of its lackluster regular season, DePaul showcased its true potential in the Big East Tournament. The Blue Demons won two games and came close to advancing to the tournament championship, falling short in the semi-finals with a 4-1 defeat against Villanova.

“There’s no denying that our season didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” said head coach Tracie Adix-Zins. “I think at the end of the day, the last three weeks is the team that I was expecting the entire year. So to have that be how our end was, I mean you can’t ask for much more of a way to end our season.”

DePaul began its campaign with a promising start, winning its first four games and showing early potential. However, the team’s fortunes took a turn as they struggled throughout the remainder of the regular season, ending with a disappointing 13-30 record that plummeted them to the bottom of the Big East standings.

“I think the way we finished at the end kind of fixed a lot of those ups and downs,” said sophomore infiedler Baylee Cosgrove. “We just had a new mindset and tried to regroup and I think that the way we did come back and bounce back after that showed a lot. We’re really proud of ourselves for that.”

The Blue Demons welcomed a wave of fresh faces to the roster, hoping to bring renewed energy and potential. While some bumps in the road were anticipated due to this transition, what caught the team off guard was the inconsistency at the plate. DePaul finished the season with a .263 batting average, much lower than last season’s average of .285.

This inconsistency at the plate was not offset by the inexperienced pitching staff that struggled throughout the season. The entire pitching staff was replaced with fresh new faces, which include freshman Bella Nigey, Abbey Pochie, senior transfer Brenna Smith and sophomore Katey Pierce.

“We were all new on the mound and didn’t return a single pitcher,” Adix-Zins said. “I think that creates a lot of uncertainty and that’s normal. I don’t think they really grasped how hard of a learning curve it was going to be until midway through the season.”

DePaul’s pitching staff this past season struggled with a 5.60 ERA compared to last season’s 4.20 ERA. Nigey was arguably the Blue Demons’ ace with a 4.54 ERA, but that is a huge difference compared to Sarah Lehman’s dominant 2.82 ERA last season that won 14 games on the mound.

The team’s inability to live up to expectations resonated with senior first baseman Brooke Johnson. She was a part of last season’s team that showed promise heading at the end of the last school year. As a leader in the clubhouse, Johnson played a key role in the team’s turnaround.

“I think everyone wishes we would have started off how we ended [in 2022],” Johnson said. “I think that UConn weekend, we knew we had to come out and be the best that we could and I think that just pushed us through the rest of the season.”

DePaul ended the season winning five of its last six games, which resulted in a Big East Tournament appearance. The team was battle tested and faced tremendous pressure as they had to sweep the last series of the season to lock in a playoff spot. They controlled their own destiny.

The Blue Demons swept Georgetown to secure a playoff spot, winning with ease by outscoring the Hoyas, 25-10. As the team recorded the final out, a sense of relief hit the players immediately knowing all of their hard work had paid off and they would be on their way to Storrs, Connecticut.

“It was very relieving … like that whole weekend,” Johnson said. “Every single game felt like the postseason, and it was a lot of pressure. It definitely prepared us for the tournament.”

As soon as DePaul got in, they lost to three seeded Seton Hall 5-4, but since the tournament was double elimination, they were able to pick up two straight wins and took down four-seeded Butler 4-2 and five seeded St. John’s 8-4.

“I’m just proud of everyone, and I think we just knew we could do it and for some reason it didn’t click at the beginning of the year,” Johnson said. “We lost to the two teams that were in the championship, so it was good. I’m not mad about it [the team’s performance] at all.”

After DePaul’s win over the Red Storm, they found themselves in a close game with two seeded Villanove but lost 4-1, ending its season. Both were tied 1-1 heading into the sixth inning until the Wildcats scored the go-ahead run and added two more insurance runs in the seventh inning to pull out the victory.

“I think we ended on a high note,” Adix-Zins said of the team’s tournament performance. “The hardest part about the tournament was we did have a lot of returning players who had played in it, but we were just missing the experience on the mound. I’m proud of what they brought to the table and I think it really is just a building block point for next year.”

DePaul’s late-season resurgence and strong tournament performance demonstrated its resilience, while highlighting the areas that need improvement. With high expectations set for next season, the team is focused on building off its recent tournament success, hoping it translates to a more balanced and consistent team on the field next season.

“The expectation is going to be more disciplined,” Adix-Zins said of next season’s expectations. “We are going to be a team that operates itself at the highest level, but we’re going to be disciplined about what we’re putting on the field. I think our last three weeks are exactly what DePaul softball is.”