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All Systems Are Go for DePaul Liftoff
Kirsten Verdun ignited the offense with two doubles and two RBIs in DePaul's 3-0 win over Hofstra.

Kirsten Verdun ignited the offense with two doubles and two RBIs in DePaul's 3-0 win over Hofstra.

Feb. 26, 2012

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CLEARWATER, Fla. - In a state that's known for dramatic liftoffs, all systems are go for DePaul.

But instead of launching from Cape Canaveral, the countdown reached zero here in Clearwater on Sunday after the Blue Demons won the NFCA Leadoff Classic championship.

DePaul swept to its first tournament title of season after a 3-0 victory over Hofstra at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex left the Blue Demons 5-0 for the weekend and 11-4 overall.

The nine hits DePaul knocked out on Sunday was actually one below their average per game in the Classic. Coach Eugene Lenti's team wound up ripping 51 hits in the 13-team tournament.

And as the team took off, its statistics skyrocketed. The Blue Demons batted .385 as a team while their opponents hit just .136. The bashers in blue outscored the opposition 25-4.

Heading up the bat attack against Hofstra was Kirsten Verdun, who had been struggling in the early going.

The left-handed slugger drove a double to left-center in the first inning, bringing home Lynsey Ciezki (single) and Allie Braden who had run for Mary Connolly (single).

In the sixth, Verdun led off with a double to left and then watched pinch-runner Amanda Mener advance on a groundout and score thanks to Ali Warren's base hit.

"I've been working with Sam (assistant coach Samantha Findlay) a lot and trying to be more selective," Verdun said. "Today was a start. I was seeing the ball better and picking the right pitches to swing at and hit.

"It's been very frustrating. The thing with slumps is that you can't muscle your way out of them. It just has to happen, and in the meantime, you have to trust that your teammates will come through. That's exactly what's been happening."

Winning pitcher Hannah Penna made sure the three runs stood up. The sophomore right-hander improved to 2-1 on the season with her first shutout. She limited Hofstra (0-8) to four hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

"Hannah wasn't sharp early, but she got better as the game went on," Lenti said. "From the fifth inning on, she was sharper and did a good job.

"Our pitching made a definite improvement this weekend. We didn't give up any home runs, and that was a big priority. Our staff only gave up four runs in five games."

Verdun combined with Bree Brown and Hannah Penna for a dominant 0.44 team earned-run average in Florida.

"Hannah and Bree both did a good job of pitching," Verdun said. "We were pretty focused on not giving up too many walks and eliminating the home run balls. All three of us made a lot of progress."

The Blue Demons take a break and won't play again until March 9 when they face Florida International at the FIU tournament in Miami.

NOTES: Megan Coronado, Samantha Dodd, Penna and Verdun were chosen for the Leadoff Classic All-Tournament Team... Verdun was 2-for-3 with the two RBIs while Dodd continued her hitting binge going 3-for-4... she has nine hits in her last 15 at-bats... Connolly was 2-for-4 and Warren 1-for-3 with the RBI... Ciezki was 1-for-4 and scored run, as did Braden and Mener... for the weekend, Megan Coronado hit .625 with three RBIs and three runs... Dodd batted .600 with one RBI and four runs... Braden batted .444 and was followed by Connolly (.400, two RBIs, two runs), Katelyn Braget (.400, three RBIs, three runs), Staci Bonezek (.357, two runs, two doubles), Ciezki (.353, four runs) and Verdun (.267, five RBIs, three doubles)... Brown, Penna and Verdun had a combined 0.44 ERA compared to DePaul's opponents with a combined 4.59 ERA.