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Lynsey Ciezki raised her batting average by 126 points in helping DePaul capture the Wolf Pack Classic last weekend.

Lynsey Ciezki raised her batting average by 126 points in helping DePaul capture the Wolf Pack Classic last weekend.

March 10, 2011

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CHICAGO - Making plays has made all the difference for DePaul this season.

Stellar glove work is the main reason the Blue Demons are 11-2 and looking for their third title in a row this weekend at the Saluki Invitational in Downstate Carbondale.

The Blue Demons have only committed three errors in 13 games while taking full advantage of the 16 miscues of their opponents resulting in 16 unearned runs.

"We communicate well on defense, and our pitchers are getting a lot of ground-ball outs," said third baseman Lynsey Ciezki. "We're making the plays behind our pitchers."

DePaul's defense kept the team within striking distance last Saturday against Nevada until a pair of dramatic, seventh-inning home runs by Kirsten Verdun and Katelyn Braget resulted in a 3-2 comeback victory for the Wolf Pack Classic title in Reno, Nev.

The Blue Demons have won four in a row and eight of their last nine.

"We've had our ups and downs, but our defense has been very good during our down times," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. "That's enabled us to find a way to win.

"We are making the plays we should make and not extending innings. We're not making errors on routine plays and giving anyone extra at-bats."

After opening against Illinois-Chicago (5-9) at 11 a.m. on Saturday, DePaul will encounter a Southern Illinois ballclub that is off to a 12-5 start but has made 26 errors.

As a result, the Salukis have been victimized by 18 unearned runs.

"We put the ball in play a lot and force the other team to make plays," Ciezki said. "If we keep putting the ball in play, the errors will come."

That helps explain how the Blue Demons can hit just .216 as a team at the Feb. 18-20 USF Tournament and still emerge as the titlist with a 4-1 record.

"The unearned runs will come if you keep putting the ball in play," Ciezki said.

In contrast, DePaul has given up just five unearned runs.

"The few errors we have made have come back to bite us," Lenti said. "But when you have quality pitching and a real solid defense, it's hard for your opponents to score runs."

Verdun gave DePaul's pitching staff a lift last weekend at the Wolf Pack Classic. The freshman combined with Bree Brown to toss the season's first no-hitter in an 8-0 victory over Boston College.

Verdun was 2-0 with a save and a 1.08 earned-run average in leading DePaul to the Classic title.

"It was nice to see the pitching show some consistency," Lenti said. "Kirsten was great, and Bree came in and did a good job. That was two of the best innings (four strikeouts) she has pitched all year."

The offense came alive last weekend as the Blue Demons boosted their team batting average from .238 to .263.

Lynsey Ciezki batted .600 and scored four runs at the Classic. Alex Morocco hit .545, Samantha Dodd .500 and Katelyn Braget hit .400 with a game-winning home run.

"I became more of a stationary hitter," said Ciezki, who raised her batting average from .160 to .286. "I got my legs and hands on the same hitting plane and didn't do any slap-hitting.

"That feeling of confidence makes all the difference. My slapping will come. As a lefty, I'm waiting for the day when my hitting and slapping are both working well."

All Verdun did was hit .375 in Nevada with two home runs, six RBIs and three runs scored.

"We've had someone get hot each week, and that's been good," Lenti said. "What you really need is three or four players to swing a hot bat at the same time.

"Consistently hitting for a high average is hard. We just need to keep coming up with quality at-bats."

Morocco will enter the UIC game riding a five-game hitting streak while Ciezki has hit safely in her last four games.

Sean Plese leads DePaul with a .429 batting average followed by Dodd (.386), Morocco (.383) and Braget (.375). Morocco leads the team in hits with 18 and Dodd has 17.

Verdun is hitting .303 and leads the team in home runs (four), runs (nine), RBIs (12) and walks (16). She is also 6-1 in the pitching circle with a 1.56 ERA.

UIC is led by Melinda Macias (.381), Courtney Heeley (.320) and former Lincoln-Way Central star Carly Demarco (.311). Ex-Neuqua Valley standout Jenna Marsalli leads the Flames with 12 RBIs. Flames ace Devin Miller, who starred at Loyola, is 2-6 with a 3.26 ERA.

UIC has lost to No. 5/6 Washington, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 20 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Auburn and BIG EAST Conference contender Notre Dame.

SIU's attack features Taylor Orsburn (.372, three home runs, 16 RBIs), Morgan Barchan (.341, 11 RBIs), Cristina Trapani (.340, three homers, 14 RBIs), Mallory Duran (.333) and Jayna Spivey (five home runs, 15 RBIs).

The Salukis have scored 99 runs, but also given up 82 with a staff ERA of 5.11. SIU ace Danielle Glosson is 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA.