Top-Seeded Softball Begins Championship Hunt on Friday
May 7, 2014
CHICAGO - Winners in 21 of 22 games, DePaul softball heads into the postseason on a roll. The Blue Demons finished the regular season at 39-9, their most wins since 2011, and went 18-1 in conference play to earn the top overall seed at this weekend's 2014 BIG EAST Championships.
Already the regular season champs for the fourth time in program history, the Blue Demons will begin their search for a second conference tourney title on Friday, May 9 when they face Creighton at the Ballpark in Rosemont. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. CT and will be aired live on FOX Sports Go -- as well as via tape delay on FOX Sports 2 at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Just yesterday, it was announced the Blue Demons had swept the end-of-year conference awards and placed a league-high six athletes on the All-BIG EAST first and second teams. Now the team looks to sew up its 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament with the conference's auto-bid up for grabs this weekend.
The Blue Demons have lost just once since March 26 and a big reason why has been senior Allie Braden, who picked up her first career BIG EAST Player of the Week honor on Monday. The Blue Demon shortstop has an incredible streak of 137 straight starts and is coming off a .583 week at the plate in a home win against Northwestern and a series victory at Butler. Braden has upped her batting average .244 to .350 since March 26 and was sizzling in conference play hitting at a .438 clip.
Last weekend did see the Blue Demons come up short for the first time in conference play, however, in a 4-2 loss at Butler. The setback snapped a 20-game winning streak for the Blue Demons -- the longest for the program since 2007 and tied for the fourth-longest in program history. DePaul did rebound to win 13-1 in its season finale on Sunday, finishing with its most BIG EAST wins (18) since 2010.
Scouting The Bluejays
The Bluejays placed three on the All-BIG EAST First Team on Tuesday, including ace pitcher Becca Changstrom (17-12, 1.95 ERA). The senior has held opponents to a .190 batting average this season with 252 strikeouts in 200.2 innings pitched, but did not fare well against DePaul this season. In two appearances, the Blue Demons got to Changstrom for 11 earned runs in 13.2 innings pitched as she went 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA over the three-game set. As a team, Creighton’s team ERA of 2.43 is the second-best in the league.
Junior shortstop Liz Dike, an All-BIG EAST First Team selection, is one of the top power hitters in the conference with 16 homers. She hit .455 (5-for-11) with two longballs, three RBI and six runs scored against DePaul. Alexis Cantu, another first-teamer, leads the team with 32 walks in addition to ranking second with 10 homers and 29 RBI. The Blue Demons held her hitless this season, but the senior hits .283 overall. No Creighton player hits higher than .287 (Ellen Homan), as the team hits just .232 overall, but the Bluejays do not lack power and rank second in the BIG EAST with 42 homers on the year.
Prior to this season, the two programs had not played since 2010 — a 3-2 win for DePaul in nine innings on May 22 in an NCAA Tournament Regional game in Columbia, Mo.
The major award sweep was the fifth in BIG EAST history, as DePaul became the third different team to claim all four certificates. The Blue Demons are the first team to sweep the awards since 2001.
DePaul also led the league in all-conference selections, placing four on the first team and two more on the second team. All-BIG EAST First Team selections were Kirsten Verdun (unanimous), Mary Connolly, Dylan Christensen and Megan Coronado. Allie Braden and Staci Bonezek were named to the second team.
Blue Demons Clinch BIG EAST Regular Season Title
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.
Still Going Strong
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
As a batter, Verdun has moved into second all-time in homers (36) and has moved into first all-time in walks (151). She also ranks second in on-base percentage and is fifth in slugging.