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Verdun's Two-Hitter Too Much for Illinois
Kirsten Verdun faced one batter over the minimum in the final six innings of Tuesday's 3-0 win over Illinois.

Kirsten Verdun faced one batter over the minimum in the final six innings of Tuesday's 3-0 win over Illinois.

April 24, 2012

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CHICAGO - This is the kind of fast start that pitchers love.

Just ask DePaul ace Kirsten Verdun who made an early outburst stand up in the Blue Demons' 3-0 nonconference victory over Illinois Tuesday.

DePaul's players walked into Cacciatore Stadium determined to break out of a run-scoring mini slump---and that's exactly what happened as they snapped a four-game losing streak.

Lynsey Ciezki led off with a walk and Samantha Dodd followed with an infield single. Helping her own cause, Verdun delivered a single to right field and Ciezki scored.

Mary Connolly's double to left brought home Dodd. Katelyn Braget then singled to right and Verdun crossed the plate.

"It's especially nice for the starting pitcher to get early runs like that," Verdun said with a smile. "That takes the pressure off right away.

"We had been struggling lately on offense. Our team came out more aggressive today and didn't stand there looking at strikes."

The only time Illinois (21-22) threatened was in the top of the first. With two outs, Meredith Hackett walked and Jess Perkins singled. A walk to Danielle Vaji loaded the bases, but Verdun got Jami Schkade to pop out.

From there, the sophomore southpaw was on cruise control en route to a two-hit shutout. Following Alex Booker's leadoff single in the third, Verdun faced the minimum 15 batters.

"Verdun struggled a little with her control, but she still pitched a great game," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. "We always tell our players that Verdun will give us a chance to win any game.

"It was good that we scored right away, but we still missed on some golden opportunities. Twice we had a runner on third and couldn't get her home."

DePaul improved its record to 27-17 and Verdun is now 19-10 after firing the two-hitter with eight strikeouts and three walks.

"I was a little off in that first inning," Verdun said. "I had to find a way to regain focus on my pitching."

Verdun and the Blue Demons have a big challenge awaiting them on Wednesday as BIG EAST Conference title contender Syracuse (34-11, 11-3 in the BIG EAST) comes into Cacciatore Stadium.

"Syracuse has the best pitching tandem in the conference," Lenti said about ace Jenna Caira (21-5, 1.69 ERA) and Stacy Kuwik (11-3, 1.76 ERA). "We're not going to get that many opportunities to score against them.

"Then again, anytime Verdun is on the mound, she is capable of shutting anyone down."

Wednesday's noon doubleheader is also Field Trip Day when 500 school children from the city will be wearing Blue Demon T-shirts and screaming for the home team, which is 8-6 in BIG EAST play.

NOTES: Verdun and Braget both went 2-for-3 against the Fighting Illini and each had an RBI... Connolly was 1-for-3 with an RBI... Ciezki and Dodd were 1-for-2 and Allie Braden was 1-for-3... Verdun leads the Blue Demons in batting average (.369), home runs (nine), RBIs (36), hits (48) and walks (18)... Dodd is batting .362 and Connolly .310 with five home runs and 28 RBIs... Braden is batting .302 and Braget is hitting .277 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs... in the pitching circle, Verdun is 19-10 with a 1.71 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 176 innings... opponents are hitting just .212 against her... as a team, DePaul is outhitting opponents .281-.231 and outscoring them 187-116... Blue Demon basketball player Donnavan Kirk sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the fifth-inning stretch.