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DePaul Opens Judi Garman Classic Thursday Against No. 18/16 Washington
Samantha Dodd is looking to fire up the Blue Demon attack beginning Thursday at the prestigious Judi Garman Classic.

Samantha Dodd is looking to fire up the Blue Demon attack beginning Thursday at the prestigious Judi Garman Classic.

March 13, 2013

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CHICAGO - A refreshed and refocused DePaul softball team heads to sunny southern California for one of the top tournaments in the country.

The 12-8 Blue Demons will face No. 18/16 Washington (19-5) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in their opener of the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.

"Washington is going to be awfully tough, although we did beat the Huskies at the Judi Garman when they were ranked No. 1," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. That was in March of 2010 when the Blue Demons pulled off a 5-3 upset and snapped the Huskies' 18-game winning streak.

The 2013 Huskies are outhitting their opponents .367-.182 and outscoring teams 177-40. They are led by Hooch Fagaly (.475, six home runs, 28 RBIs) and an offense with eight players batting .315 or higher. The pitching staff features Bryana Walker (10-2, 1.35 earned-run average) and Kaitlin Inglesby (7-2, 1.13 ERA).

"The Judi Garman is a very good tournament every year," Lenti said. "It's great competition just before we go into BIG EAST Conference play. We'll be facing two nationally ranked teams, and we lost twice to Texas at a tournament in Houston."

DePaul tackles No. 9/10 Texas in its Classic finale on Saturday night. The Longhorns lineup has five players hitting .405 or better including Taylor Hoagland (.469, six home runs, 23 RBIs) and Taylor Thom (.405, eight homers, 33 RBIs). Ace Blaire Luna is 11-0 with a 0.99 ERA and leads the nation averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning.

"We're also playing the host team Cal State Fullerton (9-12) which has beaten No. 12/12 UCLA and Big Ten power Wisconsin this year," Lenti said. "North Carolina State (11-8-1) and Penn State (6-11) are both solid programs.

"It's going to be a challenge, but that's what makes it so fun. If we pitch well, play solid defensively and string a few hits together, that's our recipe for success."

Lenti & Co. took advantage of a 10-day break to work on their game. Gena Lenti is batting .455 and Megan Coronado .388. Allie Braden is at .362 and leads the team in runs with 18. Kirsten Verdun is hitting .333 with 14 RBIs. In the pitching circle, Verdun is 8-4 with a 1.87 ERA.

"We spent time working on the basics such as your mental approach to hitting," Lenti said. "Our pitchers put in a lot of work with pitching coach Nancy Evans.

"Defensively we focused on fielding fundamentals. Because of the snowstorm, there wasn't an opportunity to practice outside. Hopefully all the work we put in will show up in our play this weekend."

The respite came after four consecutive weeks of traveling and competing at a pair of tournaments in Las Vegas, one in Houston and one in Clearwater, Fla.

"I like to go on the road for a while and then come home and work on improving your overall game," Lenti said. "You can get things accomplished and not have to worry about getting ready for a game.

"We had eight solid practices, and the kids had some time off. By not traveling, they had more time to concentrate on their school work.

"Our players are excited to play ball in southern California where the weather is supposed to be gorgeous. They want to perform up to their capabilities and enjoy themselves."