Double troubled: Blue Demons drop doubleheader to Irish

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It was a beautiful spring day at Cacciatore Stadium April 27 for DePaul’s doubleheader against Big East rival Notre Dame (15-1 in Big East); however, the matchup did not play out as ideally as the weather.

The Blue Demons (27-17, 13-5) lost both games – 6-3 and 5-2 – to the Fighting Irish due to pitchers Megan Penna and Kirsten Verdun both having disappointing outings and batters creating a habit of leaving runners in scoring position. DePaul hasn’t beaten Notre Dame since 2010 and the doubleheader losses marked the end of a three-game winning streak, during which the Demons scored at least 10 runs each outing.

“We lose consistently in consistent ways,” said head coach Eugene Lenti. “We gave up the long ball and we gave up a lot of walks. It’s frustrating. We should do better against a good team.”

Notre Dame entered the weekend series proving why they are a feared opponent, ultimately improving their win streak to 11 games. The Fighting Irish have the Big East leader in strikeouts in Laura Winter and the league leader in batting average, hits and doubles in Emellie Koerner. Koerner ended her day with three hits, two RBIs and three runs, while Winter had five strikeouts and no walks in her complete game. Winter also hit a home run in both games.

Penna and Verdun were pulled early in their respective games due to earned runs, surprising for Verdun given her most recent streak of 19 scoreless innings thrown against St. John’s and Syracuse. Their relievers, Mary Connolly and Morgan Maize, pitched well and kept run scoring to a minimum while under the pressure of Notre Dame’s potent offense. Maize did not give up any runs in the second game while Connolly gave up three off of defensive errors.

Samantha Dodd was DePaul’s bright spot with three hits in each game, including a solo homer and two runs scored in the first game. Verdun may not have had a great day on the mound, but contributed at the plate with a two-hit, one RBI outing in the first game and a solo blast in the second.

“Mary and Morgan did a good job,” said Lenti, when asked about the team’s pitching performances. “Megan and Kirsten didn’t do so well. You gotta bring your A-game against A-teams – you gotta bring all your stuff and they didn’t.”

Hitting-wise, both games saw fantastic outings at bat, but not with runners in scoring position. DePaul out-hit Notre Dame 12-7 in the first game and 9-8 in the second, yet hitting with runners on base seemed to be an unresolved quandary. In the series opener, with no outs in the bottom of the seventh and bases loaded, DePaul only drove in one to make up for the four runs they gave up in top of the inning.

“We had the first game, but we couldn’t get key hits,” said Lenti. “We were in it to the end.”

DePaul showed many efforts to come back when the team was down, particularly at the bottom of the seventh in game one and in the final two innings of game two, where the Demons would sacrifice bunt or hit bloopers to get runners on base. However, driving in these baserunners was a responsibility that fell to the bottom of the order, which could not deliver when it mattered most.

One guilty party in the bottom of the order was Paige Peterson, who was replaced in the second game by Marsha Pendilton, after a no-hit effort in game one. Pendliton also went hitless and slipped chasing a fly ball in the outfield, which resulted in a two-run triple in the top of the fifth.