In a span of seven pulsating minutes, Blue Demon softball and men's track and field win BIG EAST titles
Rare feat for three Blue Demons succeeding as two-sport athletes at the Division I level
The 2000 softball team made an incredible turnaround and advanced to the NCAA's Elite Eight
Home run hitter who led program to first Women's College World Series berth being inducted on Feb. 25
Hall of Fame inductee Yvette Healy became a fearless All-American who never forgot what it means to serve
Highlights from the BIG EAST Championship on Saturday between DePaul and St. John's.
Highlights from the Friday BIG EAST Semifinals between DePaul and Villanova.
Highlights from game three against Creighton on Sunday.
Highlights from games one and two of the Friday doubleheader against Providence.
Highlights from DePaul softball's game against Seton Hall Sunday afternoon.
Coach Eugene Lenti is not a "numbers" guy.
He prefers to teach the game of softball, and when the game is done, he leaves everything on the field.
And yet, what Lenti has accomplished as he enters his 36th year at DePaul University is all about the numbers, and his legacy leaves softball fans, coaches, current and former DePaul student-athletes and potential softball players astonished.
After 35 years in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Lenti has won 1,263 games. He won his 1,200th game in 2014 with a 4-3 road win at Big Ten rival Illinois.
Under Lenti's watch, senior ace Kirsten Verdun capped her illustrious career with a second NFCA All-American honor as her and Mary Connolly both made all-region teams and were named BIG EAST Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.
In 2013, Lenti guided the Blue Demons to their eighth consecutive appearance in the BIG EAST Championship where they topped Georgetown 1-0 in the opener before falling to Notre Dame in the semifinals. Kirsten Verdun, Mary Connolly and Samantha Dodd were selected All-BIG EAST First Team. Verdun and Connolly were named NFCA All-Great Lakes Region First Team.
Their best stretch of softball came from March 23-April 7 when DePaul won 10 of 11 games---including seven in a row. In a four-game span facing Seton Hall once and Syracuse three times, the Blue Demons won by the scores of 18-5, 15-6, 11-0 and 16-2. DePaul finished the season winning seven games by the run rule.
In 2012, DePaul went 36-22, 14-8 in the BIG EAST and qualified for the NCAA Championship tournament for the 17th time in program history and 15th time in the last 16 years. The Blue Demons went 1-2 at the Columbia, Mo. regional.
Lenti & Co. opened the 2012 season with 28 consecutive road games and won 14 of the first 18. The Blue Demons were ranked No. 25 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 national poll early in the season. They won the NFCA Leadoff Classic for the first time in program history.
DePaul played 28 games against teams that qualifed for the NCAA tournament and played three games against teams (California, Alabama) ranked No. 1 in the nation. They faced five of the eight teams that advanced to the Women's College World Series with victories over USF and LSU.The Blue Demons won two of three against Louisville, who came into Cacciatore Stadium with a 28-game winning streak.
Ace Kirsten Verdun was named NFCA All-American Second Team and was also selected to the NFCA All-Great Lakes Region First Team and All-BIG EAST Conference First Team. She wasnamed USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week. Mary Connolly was chosen All-BIG EAST Third Team. Verdun set single-season DePaul records for most games started and most innings pitched.
The 2011 Blue Demons finished with a 41-15 record, 19-2 in the BIG EAST. They were among the final 20 teams in the NCAA tournament, battling No. 8/4 Missouri down to the regional final in Columbia, Mo.
That was DePaul's 16th appearance in the NCAA tournament, 14th in the last 15 years.
DePaul went on a 16-game winning streak from April 9-May 5---the longest winning streak since the 2007 team won 20 in a row. The Blue Demons were ranked No. 24 in the nation in the final USA Today/NFCA poll.
Since 1999,Lenti has taken four teams to the Women's College World Series. Although the Blue Demons have been deemed a "Cinderella" each time they ventured to Oklahoma City, DePaul is one of only five teams since 1999 to have made four or more trips to the WCWS.
The glass-slipper stereotype has been shattered by DePaul teams -- 16 have made an appearance in an NCAA Championship and 13 have been crowned regular-season conference champions. The Blue Demons' first-ever BIG EAST Conference Championship came in 2007.
Coach Lenti's teams are competitive from the first out to the 21st, playing an exciting, aggressive and fundamentally sound style that is fun to watch. Exceptional pitching has been a staple of Lenti's program, and with the addition of former NCAA Player of the Year and two-time All-American Nancy Evans to the staff as pitching coach in 2011, that trend is sure to continue.
In 2007, DePaul's success was engineered by the extraordinary pitching duo of All-Americans Tracie Adix and Becca Heteniak. The tandem threw 352.2 of DePaul's 411.1 innings and helped the pitching staff to the seventh best ERA (1.36) in nation. Individually, Adix finished her senior season with a 0.89 ERA, the fifth best ERA in the country and Heteniak followed with a 1.20 ERA for the 12th-lowest. Heteniak struck out a team-high 180 batters, averaging 8.0 per seven innings, the 46th most by any NCAA Division I pitcher.
The 2005 DePaul pitching staff led the Blue Demons to their third WCWS and finished with the 26th-best ERA (1.26) in the country. That staff was led by Megan Huitink, who finished with 36th-best ERA (1.29) while Adix was 28th in the country with 24 wins.
Lenti's pitching staffs are no stranger to the NCAA rankings, as his 1998 staff led the nation and registered a school record 0.60 ERA. That same season, Liza Brown was the national ERA individual champion. The 2003 pitching staff also left their mark in the NCAA rankings, finishing third in the nation with an ERA of 0.83. The 2006 staff also finished the season nationally ranked as they finished the season with a combined 2.04 ERA: the 43rd best ERA in the country.
In 2010, the Blue Demons repeated as BIG EAST Conference regular-season champions, a title they have claimed three times in the last four years. Eight DePaul players were named to the All-BIG EAST team, including three on the first team. Lenti and his assistants were honored as the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year. It was the third time Lenti & Co. have earned that distinction in the last four years.
A remarkable 14 All-Americans have been crowned during Lenti's tenure. Nine of his student-athletes have been named a conference Player of the Year and another nine have earned conference Pitcher of the Year accolades. Ten DePaul players have won conference Rookie of the Year titles while still another 104 of his student-athletes have been named first team All-Conference and countless others have been named to second, third and honorable mention all-league lists.
Lenti's program has become nationally recognized over the years. DePaul is known as the university that Ray Meyer helped build, and yet, Lenti's teams have been on the national arena more often---reaching the national championship stage four times and have been featured on the ESPN family of networks, CSTV and the BIG EAST Television Network.
A true believer of making academics a top priority, Lenti ensures that athletes come to DePaul to be students first and softball players second. Under Lenti's direction 20 student-athletes have been named Academic All-Americans. His 2007 team had the 29th best GPA in the country and was the only team in the top-30 to go to the WCWS.
Lenti is a master of teaching his players not only the game of softball, but also the "game of life." He challenges his players to become better people while in his program. He educates them about responsibility and accountability; qualities he demands both on the field and in the classroom. He stresses critical thinking and appropriate behavior and wants each of the women in his program to become exceptional human beings as well extraordinary softball players.
Coach Lenti puts softball in perspective as his teams know how to get the job done and still have fun at the same time. When the team is on the road in California, Texas,, Arizona, Indiana or even in Illinois, the Blue Demons are always looking forward to a team dinner at the home of a teammate.
"We keep things in perspective by knowing what is important, and softball is third behind family and school," Lenti said. "We get to know our players personally through practices, games and more importantly, activities off the field. I have a vested interest in each student-athlete that enters the program. We enjoy being together, and each team and year has a different dynamic. But we are still a family that laughs, cries and plays together."
Before the 2005 team took the field at the Women's College World Series, Daily Oklahoman Columnist Barry Tramel wrote, "Eugene Lenti lights up any room. His smile and personality and his quips. Spend 15 seconds with the DePaul softball coach and you will think to yourself what a wonderful world." Ask Coach Lenti's current and former players and they will tell you he is not only a effective and great teacher, but "passionate, dedicated, motivated, driven, fearless, a champion. and he makes life a little brighter."
Looking back on at the NFCA Hall of Fame coach's career, his seasons have been highlighted with big wins, conference titles and individual player honors. In 2009, Lenti recorded the 1,000th win of his storied career. In 1999 Lenti and his staff were honored as the NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year, while Lenti was named the Mideast Coach of the Year. Lenti's coaching staff was again honored by the NFCA in 2007 & 2005 and were named Mideast Coaching Staff of the Year. Lenti was named the Conference USA Women's Coach of the Decade in 2005 after amassing a 105-21 record during the six seasons the Blue Demons competed in Conference USA. Lenti was also named the C-USA Softball Coach of the Decade. Over the years, Lenti and his staffs have been honored nine times as either the Conference Coach or Coaching Staff of the Year.
2007 saw the Blue Demons return to the WCWS for the fourth time as DePaul finished the NCAA Championship with an unbelievable 6-2 record. After not allowing a run at the Carbondale Regional, the Blue Demons went into a hostile Oklahoma Sooner environment and stunned the sold out crowd by delivering the Sooners their only back-to-back home loses of the season. The Blue Demons championship run set-up as 2008 edition became the first sport at DePaul to win a BIG EAST regular title and did so with a perfect 20-0 league record. Following the season, Adix and Heteniak earned Pitcher and Rookie of the Year accolades and five others joined the pitching duo on all-conference teams.
During the 2006 season, Lenti was inducted into the DePaul Athletic's Hall of Fame and became just one of six coaches ever to be inducted. Lenti's 2006 team was highlighted by quick and accurate defense as they led the nation in double-plays per game. The Blue Demons averaged 0.62 double plays per game, turning 34 on the season. Following the team's first season of BIG EAST play, freshmen Stepanie Blagaich and Amber Patton were named to the All BIG EAST second team. Pitcher Tracie Adix was also named the conference's Pitcher of Week.
The 2005 Blue Demons swept Northwestern in the Chicago Super Regional to advance to their third WCWS before falling to eventual national champion Michigan and Alabama in the double-elimination tournament. DePaul punched its ticket to its eleventh NCAA Tournament appearance by winning its fourth C- USA Tournament crown, while Huitink became the fourth pitcher to be named Tournament MVP. Individually, Saskia Roberson became the just the third DePaul player to earn All-American honors three times, while Adix and Vojik were named to the NFCA All-Region team. The Blue Demons also had five players named to the All-Conference roster while two others were named to the All-Freshman team.
The Blue Demons finished out the 2004 season strong, clinching the 2004 C-USA Tournament title in Louisville, Kentucky, securing DePaul's tenth NCAA Regional appearance in eleven years. Individually, senior Sarah Martz and Roberson were named All-Americans and for the third straight year, Martz was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American. Martz was also named Louisville Slugger/NFCA Player of the Week (April 11-18), the MVP of the C-USA Tournament and was the NCAA Woman of the Year from the state of Illinois. Five players were honored with C-USA post-season honors while four others were named to the C-USA All-Tournament team.
The 2003 season was highlighted with three wins over top ten teams. The Blue Demons defeated No. 1 UCLA on March 9th by the score of 1-0; No. 3 Nebraska on March 13th, by the score of 7-2; and No. 7 LSU on February 8th, 4-0. DePaul posted a record of 48-7-1, returned to the NCAA tournament and won both the C-USA regular season and tournament titles. DePaul finished the year ranked No. 9 in the NFCA/USA Today Poll. Individually, the team registered three All-Americans and two Academic All-Americans. Lindsay Chouinard was named as the NFCA National Player of the Week (March 10-16), as well as C-USA Player and Pitcher of the Year.
2002 proved to be another landmark year for Lenti and DePaul softball. The Blue Demons entered the season ranked 19th only to achieve a higher standing of 11th at the season's end. After winning the C-USA regular season and tournament championships, the Blue Demons finished second at the NCAA Region II tournament, coming just one game short of advancing to the WCWS. Lenti's deep pitching staff led the team with Chouinard being named C-USA Pitcher of the year, and MVP of the C-USA Tournament and NCAA Regional. Current Assistant Liz Bouck was named C-USA Player of the Year.
The 2001 softball team ascended to 8th in the NFCA/USA Today Top-25 poll. A C-USA regular season title and another trip to the NCAA Tournament, where Lenti's squad won its opening round game for the fourth consecutive season, highlighted the 51-win campaign. Lenti was named the C-USA Coach of the Year, while Martz was a second team All-American after earning the conference's Player and Freshman of the Year awards.
The 1999 edition of DePaul softball will remain etched in school history for not only reaching the Final Four; but for finishing third in the NFCA/USA Today final top 25 poll, winning the NCAA Regional after reaching the title game in the previous two seasons, posting a school record 54 victories, winning a third consecutive Mid-Continent Conference title, having three All-Americans and having two Academic All-Americans. For his efforts, Lenti and his staff were named the 1999 NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year.
In 1998, the Blue Demons went 47-8, and finished 10th in the final NFCA/ USA Today Top 25 poll. DePaul won the Mid-Continent Conference regular season and tournament title. They opened the NCAA tournament with a victory over Illinois-Chicago, then fell to Michigan, beat UIC again before being eliminated by the Wolverines in the regional final. The DePaul pitching staff led the nation in earned run average. Individually, two Blue Demons, Yvette Healy and Brown, were named All-Americans.
DePaul finished the 1997 season ranked 21st in the final NFCA/USA Today Top 25 poll. The Blue Demons roared to a 42-15 record, including a perfect 12-0 ledger in the Mid-Continent Conference leading them to the regular season and tournament title.
In 1995 DePaul won the Mid-Continent Conference title and earned with it the program's second berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The 1994 season was a season of firsts; the Blue Demons made their first NCAA Tournament appearance and saw their name appear in the NFCA/USA Today Poll. DePaul finished 42-17 record, marking the first time a Lenti-coached team had recorded 40 victories.
Lenti took a break from coaching after the 1987 season but returned in 1990. The 1991 and 1992 season saw the Blue Demons win 39 games; win the North Star Conference Title and Lenti was named the Conference Coach of the Year.
Before coming to DePaul, Lenti was an English teacher and Chairman of the English Department at St. Francis DeSales High School.
A 1979 graduate of DePaul with an English Education degree, Lenti and his wife Kandace reside on Chicago's North Side. The couple has three daughters, Ali, Gena and Cate. Ali and Gena played softball and graduated from DePaul. Ali graduated in 2015 while Gena gradauted in 2016. Cate is currently a student at DePaul.
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