DePaul's Overachievers Take It to the Max
May 22, 2011
COLUMBIA, Mo. - So much can happen in a 24-hour cycle, and DePaul's softball team went from exhilarating heights on Saturday to a season-ending downer on Sunday.
Needing one win to claim a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals after upsetting No. 8/4 Missouri on Saturday, the Blue Demons lost 7-3 and 8-0 in six innings at Sunday's NCAA Regional finals.
Missouri (50-8) advances to next week's NCAA Super Regional against Washington while DePaul (41-15) is left to reflect on a memorable season.
"The sharpness and fine-tuning we had yesterday, we didn't have it today," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. "Chelsea Thomas was firing on all eight cylinders in this one.
"It's an amazing thing what she did, pitching a no-hitter in this last game after we had faced her all weekend. "We ran into a buzz saw. You saw today why she is one of the 10 national finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year."
Rhea Taylor's two-run home run in the top of the sixth gave Missouri an 8-0 lead, and when DePaul couldn't score to extend the game, Thomas had her third no-hitter of the season.
"The formula that worked for us yesterday and all season was terrific defense and very good pitching," Lenti said. "Our defense was still spectacular, and we threw out another player at home.
"This was the best defensive team we've ever had at DePaul. You'd like to carry over this defensive momentum into next season.
"And Alex Morocco---with the exception of my wife (Kandace Lenti) who was the very best, Alex was right there with the rest of the greatest center-fielders of all-time at DePaul."
Kirsten Verdun got her first starting assignment since May 1 when she pitched DePaul to a 2-1 victory over Connecticut. Lindsey Dean had pitched most of the weekend and Bree Brown has been most effective in relief.
Missouri jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Ashley Fleming's two-run home run over the right-field fence. The Tigers had runners on second and third with two out in the top of the third when a wild pitch made it 3-0.
Brown came on in relief of Verdun in the top of the fourth.
Plese threw out the speedy Taylor at home in the fifth. It was the second time Plese had gunned down a runner at the plate over the weekend. Missouri scored three times after that with the big blow Maddison Ruggeberg's two-run double.
Marla Mathews broke up Chelsea Thomas' bid for a perfect game with a two-out walk in the fifth. DePaul was the last BIG EAST Conference team left in the NCAA tournament.
"I couldn't be prouder of a team," Lenti said. "We typically have one or two superstars who can carry a team. This year, it was a bunch of very good players all contributing together and picking up for one another.
"We definitely overachieved and went way beyond our potential. We were one of only eight teams in the NCAA tournament to battle into the last game of the regionals, and we finished among the top 20 teams in the nation.
"That's a tremendous accomplishment, and I couldn't be happier for this team."
NOTES: Lenti said what hurt the Blue Demons the most in Sunday's two games were walks and home runs... he pointed out those are the only two things DePaul's fourth-ranked defense in the country couldn't defend... the 2011 Blue Demons set a school record with their .979 fielding percentage, which was fourth in the nation after NCAA regionals... this was the 10th time the Blue Demons had advanced to the NCAA regional finals... the last time they had made it this far was in 2009... DePaul is now 4-3 against Missouri in the NCAA tournament... Morocco finished the season leading the team with a .383 batting average... the senior from River Forest also led the Blue Demons in hits with 70 and runs with 39... Plese hit .357 and Samantha Dodd batted .322 with 58 hits... Verdun wound up hitting .304 and led the team in home runs with 11, RBIs with 43 and walks with 47... Allie Braden hit .298 followed by Lynsey Ciezki at .286 and Megan Coronado at .284 among the regular batters... Dean was 11-7 in her final season at DePaul with a 2.08 earned-run average... Verdun was 22-4 with a 2.33 ERA and Brown was 7-4 with a 4.23 ERA.