Verdun Goes Distance, Gets Walk-Off Hit in 10-Inning Triumph Over Kentucky
May 18, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kirsten Verdun turned in one of the gutsiest pitching performances of her career, firing 10 innings and adding the game-winning hit in the Blue Demons’ final at bat as DePaul defeated Kentucky 2-1 on Sunday at the NCAA Tournament Lexington Regional.
With the win, DePaul improves to 44-10 and forces another game against the Wildcats at 3:20 p.m. CT for the right to advance to NCAA Super Regionals at a yet-to-be-determined site.
Kentucky dropped to 46-16 and lost for the first time this weekend despite getting 9.1 innings of solid pitching from ace Kelsey Nunley, who dropped to 26-8 overall and allowed just one earned run while striking out nine.
The Blue Demons and Wildcats combined for just seven hits in an epic pitcher’s duel that seemed like it could go on forever until a critical UK error set up Verdun for the walk-off.
In the Blue Demon 10th, Hannah Penna drew her first walk of the season to start things off. With one out, Micah Fitzgerald forced a bad throw by UK’s third basemen to make it second and third. Verdun batted next and sent a ball over the Wildcats’ center fielder to send the Blue Demons to their eighth regional final in program history.
Verdun began the game with a strikeout and got back-to-back ground outs, as things were scoreless through one after the Blue Demons squandered a one-out double by Braden in the home half.
In the second, Verdun walked the lead-off hitter and the runner advanced to second with no outs. DePaul’s ace rebounded, however, getting a strikeout and back-to-back fly outs to escape the jam.
UK stranded another in the third after Verdun hit Christian Stokes on the second pitch of her at bat.
The Blue Demons then went down in order for the second time in a row in the third.
Onward to the fourth, Verdun put on the first Wildcat she faced on with a walk on a close pitch after a full count. She rebounded, however, getting a fly out and strikeout before giving up a two-out double to left center to make it a 1-0 game.
DePaul wasted no time answering, as Braden led off the fourth by drawing a 13-pitch walk against Nunley – who had retired eight straight before the free pass. Connolly then flew out to center before Christensen rocketed a ball of the wall in left field to score Braden and tie the game.
Both teams went down in order in the fifth before DePaul began its sixth with a five-pitch walk drawn by Verdun. Connolly followed with a one-out single to left before a fielder’s choice and line out ended the threat.
UK put two on in the top of the seventh after Verdun plunked her second batter of the game and allowed a walk with two outs. Stokes came up next and worked a 2-2 count before going down swinging to settle down a raucous UK home crowd.
In the eighth, Verdun legged out a one-out infield single to get things started and swiped second with two outs before Connolly went down on strikes to end the inning.
Cumbess was hit by Verdun’s first pitch in the ninth, but consecutive UK batters failed to move her up with a bunt and Ginny Carroll went down looking to end the ninth.
Notes: DePaul is 45-36 in NCAA Tournament play… the Blue Demons are 12-14 in program history against the regional host… DePaul improves to 3-0 in extra innings in 2014... Christensen’s RBI in the fourth was the 282nd for DePaul this season, tying the 2003 team’s program record… Verdun’s RBI in the 10th set a new program record at 283… it was the longest game for DePaul since a 13-inning affair against South Florida on April 21, 2013… Verdun’s steal in the eighth was her first swipe and first attempt of the season… Penna’s walk in the 10th was the first of her season… Verdun fired a season-high 166 pitches in the outing… her 33 win of the season moves her into a tie for the most in a single-season at DePaul with Lindsay Chouinard (2003) and Becca Heteniak (2008)… DePaul improved to 30-0 this season when holding its opponent to two runs or less...