Blue Demons ousted from Big East Tournament

An inescapable 4th inning spelled doom for the DePaul softball team in its Big East Championship semifinal game against Notre Dame, May 10.

The Fighting Irish scored five runs off of two walks, three errors, a double and a fielder’s choice, driving Notre Dame to a 9-1 win in six innings over DePaul at USF Softball Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

“This is definitely not what DePaul softball is all about,” said head coach Eugene Lenti. “Here we are with a 44 RPI, and we should be in the top 25 every season. We haven’t been to a conference title game since 2008 when we won the Big East Championship.”

DePaul’s positioning to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament was not helped by the team’s early tournament exit.

Staci Bonezek gave DePaul an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second, hitting a solo home run off of Big East Player of the Year Laura Winter. Notre Dame answered in the bottom of the inning when Lauren Sturh doubled in a run. Two innings later, the Irish took the lead for good.

“That fourth inning there were things we’ve been unable to correct all season,” said Lenti. “You can’t have walks and errors in championship play. It seemed like every time we played a good team this season, we wound up beating ourselves. All the mistakes, it was like an epidemic.”

Kirsten Verdun went 2-for-3 at the plate against the Irish, extending her streak of reaching base to 34 consecutive games. On the mound, Verdun was charged with two earned runs in five innings of work. Though she held Notre Dame to four hits, she walked five batters. Samantha Dodd had her own streak of consecutive games reaching base snapped at 23.

“Coming here, we were in control of our own destiny,” said Lenti. “We had an opportunity at the Big East Championship to play our way off the bubble, and we didn’t do it.”

DePaul (32-21) was at least able to make it past the first round of the tournament, improving to 8-0 in opening round matchups in program history after defeating Georgetown 1-0 the morning before.

Verdun pitched a gem, taking a no-hit bid into the top of the 7th inning, when she gave up a one-hit single. On the game, Verdun had seven strikeouts and no walks.

“I had tremendous defense behind me today,” said Verdun. “My teammates made some great plays in key situations. Our coach always says we win with pitching and defense. That’s exactly what we needed today.”

“That was championship caliber pitching right there,” said Lenti.

Allie Braden hit a triple to left-center field in the bottom of the third inning, and was singled home by Dodd for DePaul’s lone run. Braden and Dodd combined to go 5-for-6 at the plate.