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Nightmare Inning Turns Into 9-1, Six-Inning Loss to Notre Dame
Staci Bonezek smacked her seventh home run of the season Friday in the 9-1 loss to Notre Dame.

Staci Bonezek smacked her seventh home run of the season Friday in the 9-1 loss to Notre Dame.

May 10, 2013

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NCAA Selection Show, 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU

TAMPA, Fla. - Everything came unraveled for DePaul during a nightmarish fourth inning Friday at the BIG EAST Conference Championship semifinals.

Two walks, three errors, a double and a fielder's choice resulted in five Notre Dame runs and led to a 9-1, six-inning DePaul loss at USF Softball Stadium.

The Fighting Irish advance to Saturday's title game.

DePaul (32-21) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Staci Bonezek took Irish ace BIG EAST Player of the Year Laura Winter deep with a solo shot over the left-field fence.

But Notre Dame (43-12) tied it in the bottom of the inning on Lauren Stuhr's RBI double. The Fighting Irish barrage came two innings later.

"That fourth inning there were things we've been unable to correct all season," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. "You can't have walks and errors in championship play. We had the momentum after Staci's home run and gave it right back.

"It seemed like every time we played a good team this season, we wound up beating ourselves. All the mistakes, it was like an epidemic."

Morgan Maize came on in relief of starting pitcher Kirsten Verdun (23-13) in the sixth inning and gave up the three runs that mandated the eight-run rule.

Now, DePaul's position is more precarious than ever in regard to earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.

"Coming here, we were in control of our own destiny," Lenti said. "I felt like two wins in the BIG EAST tournament would give us a good chance to make the NCAA. Now, we wait anxiously to see what happens at conference tournaments around the country.

"We have to rely on the evaluation of the NCAA selection committee about the strength of our schedule and how we did against the top teams. It is out of our control now."

The 64-team NCAA Softball Championship field will be announced at 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

"You get what you deserve," said Lenti as DePaul's last RPI rating was 44. "We had an opportunity at the BIG EAST Championship to play our way off the bubble, and we didn't do it.

"We had chances to play our way into the NCAA tournament with games against Northwestern, Illinois State, USF and Notre Dame---all teams right next to us in the RPI ratings. And we went 2-6 against those teams."

If this is how the season ends, Lenti is determined to wash away the bitter taste of disappointment.

"This was one of the roughest years we've had in a long while," Lenti said. "We have to make some corrections and get back to the philosophy that made DePaul one of the top teams in the country every year.

"Here we are with a 44 RPI, and we should be in the top 25 every season. We haven't been to a conference title game since 2008 when we won the BIG EAST Championship.

"This is definitely not what DePaul softball is all about."

NOTES: Verdun was 2-for-3 against the Irish and has now reached base in 34 consecutive games... Samantha Dodd had a 23-game reaching base streak snapped on Friday... Allie Braden went 1-for-3 and the fourth DePaul hit was Bonezek's blast... Verdun was charged with two earned runs in five innings... she held Notre Dame to four hits but had five walks... despite going 0-for-3, Dodd is hitting .500 (27-of-54) over the last 15 games... the Blue Demons are 2-6 in BIG EAST semifinal games and have lost four in a row in the semifinal round.