Bashing Blue Demons Go for Eight in a Row
April 8, 2013
CHICAGO - Look for DePaul to once again come out swinging like a heavyweight boxer in search of an early knockout.
The Blue Demons have won seven in a row on the strength of an explosive offense that has scored 60 runs in the last four games as DePaul welcomes Illinois State to a 4 p.m. nonconference game Tuesday at Cacciatore Stadium.
Just as the White Sox have been potent with the long ball, DePaul (23-13, 10-1 in the BIG EAST) has unleashed a power play of its own.
Including last Wednesday's 18-5, five-inning triumph over Seton Hall, opponents have failed to go the distance four games in a row.
"It's hard to explain," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. "We're getting good pitches to hit and taking the right approach in the batter's box. If you don't expand the strike zone, pitchers have to throw it across the plate. We have talented players who can square it up and hit it hard.
"We have to give Jimmy Duba in our strength and conditioning department some of the credit for our hitting. We have different 11 kids who have hit a home run this season. It shows how hard they are working on increasing their strength."
Connolly, who was chosen BIG EAST Softball Player of the Week on Monday, leads the Blue Demons with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs while batting .345. The sophomore designated player cleared the fence twice at Syracuse.
Paige Peterson (.308) hit three home runs over the weekend while Kirsten Verdun (.363, five homers, 26 RBIs), Staci Bonezek (.293, five home runs, 21 RBIs), Bree Brown and Kali Gardner each hit one home run.
"When you only go after the good pitches, there's a much better chance that good things are going to happen," Lenti said. "It also puts more pressure on the opposing pitcher to make quality pitches.
"We've had a lot of players go after a pitch early in the count, and they are hitting doubles and home runs. They are ready to swing and putting themselves in attack mode right away.
"Having all this success puts everyone in a better place mentally. You feel confident in what is working for you. The ball looks huge, and the game slows down for you."
DePaul, which is tied for first place in the BIG EAST with USF, has eight players hitting .308 or higher. Hannah Penna is at .435 after going 7-for-8 last week with seven RBIs. She was named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll.
Gena Lenti is hitting .393 and Allie Braden .368. Verdun is at .363, Connolly .345 and Samantha Dodd is hitting .330---raising her batting average 32 points in a week. Peterson is batting .308 with four homers and 20 RBIs. The Blue Demons are hitting .307 as a team.
In BIG EAST play, Connolly & Co. lead the conference in home runs, RBIs, doubles, hits, runs, total bases, walks and slugging percentage.
Connolly leads the league in RBIs, hits and total bases while Verdun tops the conference in walks and Dodd is tied for first in runs. Connolly is tied for second in home runs.
"When the whole team is hitting like this, it's a good wave to ride," Lenti said. "Everyone is simply doing what they are successful at and not straying from the path of what is working.
"Nobody is trying to do too much. They have confidence in one another that if one batter doesn't get the job done, the next one will. So, they're able to stay relaxed.
"It's easy to say and much harder to do. But right now, no one feels like they have to do anything extra. Everyone in the batting order one through nine is contributing in some way. Besides the walks, hits and home runs, players are putting the ball in play to move runners along.
"After Mary Connolly hit the three-run homer in the first inning on Sunday, we got two more base runners. Megan Coronado laid down a sacrifice bunt and Staci Bonezek followed with a two-run single. Then Gena Lenti had an RBI single. We went from a 3-0 lead to a 6-0 lead."
Lenti recognizes the fickle nature of making contact with a pitch delivered from just 43 feet away.
"Hitting a softball or baseball is one of the most difficult tasks in sports," Lenti said. "We're not going to score 15 runs every day. But you stay the course and keep working smart and hard.
"Our defense had a good weekend and didn't commit an error in three games. That's encouraging for us. But our pitching has to be sharper. Hannah did well, but Kirsten needs to be more consistent."