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The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul’s offense goes dormant, as St. John’s sweeps weekend series

Brooke+Johnson+swings+at+a+pitch+during+her+game+against+Butler+on+Friday%2C+April+5%2C+2024%2C+at+Cacciatore+Stadium+in+Lincoln+Park.
Jaydi Vasquez
Brooke Johnson swings at a pitch during her game against Butler on Friday, April 5, 2024, at Cacciatore Stadium in Lincoln Park.

The DePaul Blue Demons softball team couldn’t bring a runner across home plate in a three-game home series against St. John’s University Easter weekend. It was the first time in program history that St. John’s has shut out a Big East opponent in a three-game set.

Four days prior, the Blue Demons had traveled west to DeKalb to play Northern Illinois University and scored a season-high 17 runs on 13 hits, including three home runs. But their weekend return to Cacciatore stadium resulted in one of the more lopsided series between these two Big East schools. DePaul’s offense could only muster up five hits total as St. John’s won all three games decisively, 8-0, 4-0 and 3-0.

Erratic play plagued DePaul all weekend long as neither the offense nor pitching could find a groove, DePaul head softball coach Traci Adix-Zins said.

“We haven’t been able to find the consistency,” Adix-Zins said after the three-game series. “It’s been something that we’ve talked about all year long. We just have to find those timely moments and can’t get too high in the peaks and low in the valleys. We’re just too up and down.”

Sophomore pitcher Bella Nigey earned the start on the circle for the series opener Thursday, March 28. St. John’s started the game swinging, scoring six runs on six hits to jump out to a quick lead in the top of the first inning. Nigey was only able to record two outs in that first inning before graduate student Brenna Smith came in for relief to finish out the game.

“I think Thursday was kind of a mental block going in knowing (St. John’s) is a good offensive team,” Nigey said. “I had to stay sharp on running lanes and spinning the ball, but once you see them attack you it’s hard to stay focused.”

St. John’s starting pitcher Ana Serafinko, a fellow sophomore, helped her own cause by belting a ball over the brand-new scoreboard in right-center for a home run against Nigey. Defensively, Serafinko set the tone in the pitcher’s circle, striking out three and throwing the program’s first no-hitter since 2017 in their 8-0 run-rule victory.

In the third inning, DePaul threatened to put runs on the scoreboard, with redshirt freshman Kali Blount and fifth-year Brooke Johnson both drawing walks and eventually getting into scoring position. Still, a strikeout on junior third baseman Carly Alvers left them stranded.

Game two, Friday, March 29, went the distance. A pitcher’s duel between DePaul’s junior Katey Pierce and St. John’s sophomore Loreley Francia kept the game close until St. John’s broke through in the top half of the seventh inning, adding three insurance runs to shutout DePaul 4-0. Francia fanned eight batters in the process, controlling the zone, nailing her pitches, and only allowing four hits.

A bright spot in the offense, Alvers generated almost all of DePaul’s offense on Friday, accounting for half of DePaul’s hits and being active on the base path by stealing third base in the second inning. Alvers’ two hits marked her fifth multi-hit game of the season and second of the week.

“This past week, we’ve been working a lot on our offense, so I just really was looking for the outside pitch and doing anything I can to back up my pitcher and help my team,” Alvers said. 

With Alvers’ success at the plate, the time was ripe for DePaul to finally get on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. 

Fifth-year student Brooke Johnson, who plays first base, laced a single to center, advancing sophomore infielder Alexis Houge to second. DePaul, trying to capitalize on this golden opportunity with two runners on and no outs, signaled for a bunt attempt by junior infielder Baylee Cosgrove. Her attempted bunt hung in the air just long enough for St. John’s third baseman Amy Mallah to make a full-extension dive and double up Johnson at first for two crucial outs. A strikeout from senior catcher Riley Pool stalled any chance of late-inning magic.

Game three on a picturesque Saturday afternoon was DePaul’s last chance to salvage the series. Nigey once again got the call to start in the circle and again let up a home run to right-center to Serafinko, giving St. Johns an early 2-0 lead. However, this outing Nigey settled down with the help of strong defensive plays from outfielders Morgan Rodgers and Kali Blount, who had a run-saving throw-out at home in the seventh.

“I pitch with a lot of confidence knowing that everyone on that field is giving 110%,” Nigey said. “(Blount) has been making that play all year, so I knew she was gonna get that girl.”

Nigey rebounded from her previous start, going the distance this time and allowing five hits and earning one strikeout. 

“I just have the mentality of, ‘you’re here for a reason and they’re putting you out there because they trust you,’” Nigey said of her coaches.

The DePaul defense kept the St. John’s offense in check after the first inning, but yet again, repeatedly walked back to the dugout empty handed whenever the offense had a chance to put points on the board. 

An insurance run in the seventh from St. John’s all but sealed DePaul’s shutout loss and clinched the series sweep for the Red Storm.

Adix-Zins believes her girls are putting too much pressure on themselves to perform. 

“You can’t get caught up in everything and let it snowball because then we’ll never be successful at that point,” Adix-Zins said. “Nobody wants to beat the dead horse and (continue) to harp on what they’re doing wrong. They understand that. So, at that point, we have to figure out a way that we can spin (these games) into a more positive manner of understanding that we still have ample amounts of time.”

DePaul still has about a month and a half of regular-season games left with tough series against Butler, Villanova, Seton Hall and Creigthon before the Big East Tournament.

“Our whole team is really close,” Alvers said. “So having that bond and friendship really helps us stay positive and have a good mindset during games. It might not go our way, but we’ll always be there for each other no matter what.”

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