Verdun, DePaul Lose Nine-Inning Heartbreaker
May 19, 2012
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Kirsten Verdun pitcher her heart out, inning after inning resourcefully keeping her team in the game.
Then the DePaul sophomore made one mistake, and Ashley Fleming's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth gave No. 10/9 Missouri a 1-0 victory Saturday in the NCAA Regionals.
The Blue Demons have no more margin for error and will be battling to keep their season alive at 8 p.m. tonight.
DePaul (36-21) will oppose the winner of the Massachusetts-Illinois State game in the losers' bracket final. A victory will extend their season to a Sunday rematch with host Missouri.
"She (Fleming) had been struggling hitting my changeup all game," said Verdun, whose record fell to 27-14 after her 20th consecutive start. "I honestly think she was sitting on it, and I threw it in the wrong spot."
Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine confirmed as much.
"DePaul played a great game, and Verdun threw a ton of changeups," Earleywine said. "We finally decided to sit on one.
"There wasn't a better team out there today. I have confidence DePaul will come through the losers' bracket and we'll see them again tomorrow."
DePaul coach Eugene Lenti lamented his team's missed opportunities.
"We just couldn't string our hits together," Lenti said. "Both (Missouri ace) Chelsea Thomas and Kirsten did a great job, and there was nothing wrong about a game like this."
Brittany Boesel led off the third with an infield single, but the Tigers came up with a pair of fielder's choices and a strikeout.
Missouri (45-12) got the leadoff batter on with an infield single in the bottom of the third, but Allie Braden made another nice play at shortstop. She speared a line drive and fired across the diamond to double up the runner.
This followed up her sensational diving catch in Friday's 3-0 win over Massachusetts.
The Tigers had runners on second and third with only one out in the fourth. That brought out the bulldog in Verdun as she induced a fly ball to short left field and struck out Nicole Hudson.
"I thought I just had to turn it over to my defense," Verdun said. "I tried to hit my spots and pitch to contact.
"Thomas did a good job keeping us guessing. She is good at that, and at hitting her spots. I knew as soon as Fleming hit that ball, it was gone."
Katelyn Braget led off the fifth with a single to right and was sacrificed to second. But Boesel went down looking and Braden popped to third.
Missouri had two on, two out in the eighth when Verdun got a popup to catcher Staci Bonezek.
"We'll get something to eat, relax and come back tonight looking to score some runs," Lenti said.
NOTES: DePaul is 0-3 in extra-inning games this season... this was the 20th consecutive start for Verdun, and she has pitched both ends of five doubleheaders during a stretch that began on April 15... Verdun is tied for fourth in most wins for a season... she is also second in strikeouts in a season, fourth in complete games during a season, third in innings pitched, fifth in appearances and tied for fifth in shutouts... DePaul is 43-33 in the NCAA Championship and 12-13 against the host school... in games at neutral sites, DePaul is now 17-6... this is the fourth year in a row the Blue Demons have competed in the regional at Missouri, and their record is 6-6 at University Field... all-time against Missouri, DePaul is 8-9... the Blue Demons are 5-3 versus the Tigers in NCAA tournament competition... DePaul has played 27 games against teams in the NCAA tournament field... Dodd was 2-for-4 against Missouri on Saturday while Connolly, Brown and Boesel each had one hit... Verdun went eight innings and gave up one run on seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk.