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What An Opening Bash for Connolly and Braget
Katelyn Braget's game-tying home run set the staqe for Mary Connolly's game-winning blast in a 5-2 win over UMKC.

Katelyn Braget's game-tying home run set the staqe for Mary Connolly's game-winning blast in a 5-2 win over UMKC.

Feb. 9, 2012

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HONOLULU - Quick, someone pinch Mary Connolly to make sure this really happened.

Not only did she begin her college career in gorgeous Hawaii, but the DePaul freshman smashed a pinch hit, game-winning, three-run home run in the Blue Demons' 5-2 comeback victory over UMKC Thursday.

All of that on the very first pitch.

DePaul had been struggling in its season opener at the Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic against UMKC ace Deanna Friese who retired the first 11 batters.

But in the bottom of the sixth inning, Kirsten Verdun doubled home Lynsey Ciezki to bring the Blue Demons within 2-1.

Then came the wild finish.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Katelyn Braget ripped a solo home run to center field.

"In the outfield, we were saying: `this is it---we're not going to lose,'" right-fielder Braget said. "We just needed one hit to start a rally.

"My first two at-bats, I was really anxious. I went after the first pitch both times and wasn't giving myself a chance to see the ball. My last at-bat, I waited for one strike and then got a pitch I could drive.

"Rounding second base, I could see everyone running out of the dugout. It felt so good to see the reactions on their faces."

Megan Coronado followed with a single to left field. Staci Bonezek, who had replaced fellow freshman Brittany Boesel at shortstop an inning earlier, came through with a single to right.

That's when DePaul coach Eugene Lenti called out Connolly's name.

"The plan was to put Mary in the game at some point because she's been having some good at-bats in practice," Lenti said. "I was looking for someone to drive the ball deep. She really crushed it."

As a fellow pitcher, Connolly was more than happy to help out winning pitcher Bree Brown.

"I know what it's like to pitch a good game and hope for your offense to come around," Connolly said. "To be able to do that for Bree is a great feeling.

"When Eug called my name, I felt a little nervous. But I just had to apply what the coaches were telling me. Sam (assistant coach Samantha Findlay) told me to stay back, see the ball and attack the first good pitch."

The first delivery from the UMKC ace allowed Connolly to put the Kangaroos in the "deep Friese."

UMKC struck first with a little help from the Blue Demons. Ex-Downers Grove South star Kaelene Curry led off the game with a single to left field. She advanced to second on a groundout and to third on a wild pitch.

With two out, Brown struck out Megan Ussary but the ball got away from catcher Ali Warren, allowing Curry to score. Curry wound up going 3-for-3.

Friese handcuffed DePaul's offense for until Verdun ripped a two-out double in the bottom of the fourth. Chelsea Hartwig led off the fifth with a home run over the left-center field fence for a 2-0 lead.

"We knew Friese was a good pitcher," Lenti said. "As the game wore on and we got more looks at her, we starting making better contact. When Katelyn hit that home run, you could feel the momentum changing.

"A lot of people contributed to this comeback win, and that is the strength of our team. Bree bent a little but didn't break and pitched a real solid game. Our team kept battling and never gave up."

The Blue Demons will face Seattle at 7:30 p.m. Friday in game two of the Paradise Classic.

NOTES: In her collegiate debut, former West Chicago star Connolly recorded her first home run, RBI, run and game-winning hit... in her college debut, Bonezek got her first collegiate hit and run... freshmen Boesel and Paige Peterson made the first starts of their respective careers... Verdun went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and one RBI... Coronado was 2-for-3 and scored a run... Braget went 1-for-3 with a home run, RBI and run scored... Ciezki was 1-for-3 with a run scored... the Blue Demons had two hits over the first five innings and five hits over the last two innings... Brown went the distance giving up five hits, two runs, one unearned run with five strikeouts and no walks.