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Softball Still Scorching Heading into Final BIG EAST Weekend
Junior slugger Mary Connolly is batting an impressive .545 in conference games this season.

Junior slugger Mary Connolly is batting an impressive .545 in conference games this season.

May 2, 2014

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CHICAGO - DePaul softball remains smoking hot heading to Butler for the final weekend series of the regular season. After a 9-3 win over local rival Northwestern on Wednesday, the Blue Demons extended their winning streak to 19 and haven't lost since March 26.

Overall, DePaul is on a season-best 19 game win streak -- tied for its longest since a 19-game streak in 2001 -- and has won 23-of-25. They have out-scored BIG EAST competition 125-25 in 16 games.

The Blue Demons (37-8, 16-0 BIG EAST) kick off the weekend series with an 11:00 a.m. CT doubleheader on Saturday and wrap things up on Sunday with a single game at the same time.

Senior Kirsten Verdun picked up her third BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week honor on Monday after going 2-0 last week and firing her second no-hitter in April on Sunday in a 15-0 Senior Day win over Villanova.

Junior Mary Connolly was also named to the conference’s honor roll after a .667 (6-for-9) week at the plate with a pair of homers and five RBI -- including a career-best 4-for-4 day with a three-run blast on Sunday.

Scouting The Bulldogs
Butler (23-26, 9-8 BIG EAST) enters the weekend winners in six of its past eight games, including a series win at Seton Hall last weekend. One of three teams at 9-8 in conference play, which has them in a three-way tie for second, the Bulldogs will be scratching for one of the final spots in the upcoming BIG EAST Conference Tournament.

The top fielding team in the conference, Butler has a .972 team fielding percentage and ranked 27th in the NCAA as of Monday.

Butler hits .257 as a team and averages four runs per game with just one batter hitting north of .300 for the season, junior Cassie Rupel, who sits at .323 for the season. The Bulldogs get most of their run production from sophomore shortstop Alex Kotter, who leads the team with 26 RBI. Kristen Boros, Brandyce Sallee and Chelsea Norwood have each driven in 24 runs to supplement the offense.

Sophomore Kristin Gutierrez handles most of the pitching for Butler, and was an Atlantic 10 All-Rookie selection a year ago. This season, she sports a 2.62 ERA to go with a 14-11 record in 168 innings (149 K’s). The Bulldogs have three other pitchers who have pitched at least 20 innings and sport a team ERA of 3.39.

DePaul is 3-0 all-time against Butler, but the two programs have not met since 1994. The weekend series will mark the first time the schools face off as conference opponents.

Blue Demons Clinch BIG EAST Regular Season Title
Sitting at 13-0 entering last weekend, DePaul softball was the first team to clinch a spot in the 2014 BIG EAST Conference Tournament when they were awarded the regular season title for the fourth time. The league tourney will be held at the Ballpark at Rosemont from May 9-10.

DePaul currently leads the conference standings at 16-0. The Blue Demons’ regular-season crown is their fourth overall and third outright since joining the BIG EAST prior to the 2005-06 academic year. DePaul won the title outright in 2007 and 2009, and shared it with Notre Dame in 2010.

Award-Winning
DePaul claimed five of the first eight BIG EAST Conference weekly awards to start the season and has claimed eight overall. Last Monday, Kirsten Verdun (Pitcher) and Mary Connolly (Player) swept the weekly awards for the second time this season.

Nicole Pihl has also claimed a Player of the Week award (2/24) to go with Connolly and Verdun’s seven awards. Eight different Blue Demons have made appearances on the weekly honor roll, including multiple times by Verdun (3x) and Connolly (4x). Staci Bonezek, Megan Coronado, Kali Gardner, Ali Lenti, Morgan Maize and Hannah Penna have also achieved the distinction.

Still Going Strong
Head coach Eugene Lenti is in his 33rd season heading up the Blue Demon program in 2014, and the Hall of Famer has amassed an extraordinary career record of 1,207-578-6. He is the fifth winningest active coach in the nation and has led DePaul to the NCAA tournament in 15 of the last 17 years.

That run includes four trips to the Women’s College World Series. In three of the last six seasons, the Blue Demons have won either a BIG EAST regular-season title or BIG EAST Conference Championship tournament title. Lenti and his assistant coaches have also been honored as the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year three times.

Verdun Making History in Senior Season
One of the most decorated pitchers (and hitters) in school history, senior Kirsten Verdun has moved into first-place all-time in school history in strikeouts looking (212) and is in the top-five of 12 different career categories. She also ranks first in school history with 136 starts, surpassing the mark of 132 set by associate head coach Lindsay Chouinard (2000-03).

As a batter, Verdun has moved into second all-time in homers (36) and has moved into first all-time in walks (149). She also ranks second in on-base percentage and is fourth in slugging.