DePaul Fired Up About Season Opener in Las Vegas
Feb. 7, 2013
CHICAGO - These Blue Demons can hardly wait to get outside and play some real softball.
After practicing indoors for a month, DePaul opens its season at 3:30 p.m. Friday against UCF in the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas.
This begins a stretch of 28 consecutive road games spanning five tournaments and a three-game series at Providence to open the BIG EAST Conference season.
"We've seen lots of live pitching and worked on our defense," said DePaul Hall of Fame coach Eugene Lenti who is entering his 32nd season with a career record of 1138-549-6 which is fifth in the country among active coaches. "We're prepared fundamentally and we're physically ready. Let's go out there and see what happens.
"We've seen a big improvement in the sophomore class---shortstop Brittany Boesel, first baseman Mary Connolly, outfielder Paige Peterson, infielder Staci Bonezek and outfielders Amanda Mener and Ali Lenti. They are more mature and focused. They will be a big key to how well we do this year.
"The pitching looks strong. Kirsten Verdun looks ready to start up right where she left off last season. The other three pitchers---Hannah Penna, Connolly, Morgan Maize---all look pretty solid. Mary and Hannah are throwing harder and both look stronger than last year."
Verdun was a second-team NFCA All-American last year after going 27-15 in the pitching circle with a 1.62 ERA and 266 strikeouts---the second-highest, single-season mark in DePaul history. Her 42 starts and 272 innings pitched both set DePaul season records. Verdun wound up No. 17 in the nation in shutouts, No. 19 in wins and No. 25 in strikeouts.
In the batter's box, the junior from Coal City, Ill. led the team in home runs with 11, RBIs (41), hits (61), doubles (12), walks (29) and was second in batting average at .363. She has been named to the USA Softball Top 50 Watch List.
"Verdun has improved every year," Lenti said. "She continues to work hard with assistant coach Samantha Findlay on her hitting and with assistant coach Nancy Evans on her pitching. The more she picks up from them, the more she will perform consistently at a high level.
"This is an experienced team with a good mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores. It could be that there are no freshmen in the lineup. It hasn't been that way for at least the last three years.
"It helps getting Megan Coronado (.395) back from last year's injury. At the time she went out, Megan was really beginning to turn it on and doing all the things she needed to do."
There are coaches who prefer to ease into the season, gradually taking on bigger and bigger challenges for their teams.
That's not how it's done at DePaul.
"Yes, it's a pretty tough tournament to open the season," Lenti said. "It's also a good opportunity to gauge how good we're going to be. Our goal is to win every game this weekend, and there are still a lot of things to figure out.
"Preseason No. 18 Louisville and Texas Tech are the two strongest teams. Louisville won the BIG EAST Championship and advanced to the NCAA Regionals last season. Texas Tech had over 40 wins and advanced to the NCAA Regionals. We had some tough games against both of them last year. Both Texas Tech and UCF are receiving votes in the national preseason polls.
"It's going to be a tough weekend. We're not out to win a national championship at our first tournament, but we are looking to build towards that.
"We like to start fast, finish strong and play like Blue Demons in between."