Top-Seeded DePaul looks to defend crown, repeat as BIG EAST champions
May 10, 2018
#1 DePaul vs. #4 Villanova
May 11 | 12 p.m. CT
#1 DePaul vs. Winner of #2 Creighton vs. #3 St. John’s
May 12 | 1 p.m. CT
The Ballpark at Rosemont | Rosemont, Ill.
CHICAGO – The DePaul softball team will step on the turf at the Ballpark at Rosemont on Friday afternoon seeking the opportunity to defend its BIG EAST crown from 2017 while capturing back-to-back titles for the first time in program history. Head coach Eugene Lenti and his Blue Demon squad has lifted the trophy on three other occasions, 2008, 2014, and 2017, and hope to add a fourth to their resume, reaching the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
DePaul enters Friday’s semifinal matchup as the conference’s regular season champion, carrying a 33-15 overall record and 15-3 tally in BIG EAST play. The Blue Demons clinched the regular season title on Sunday, May 6 with a series sweep against Providence on the road.
Friday’s game will the 2,000th career game for Coach Lenti as the veteran skipper carries a 1325-668-6 record, placing him fifth all-time in NCAA history and fourth all-time among active coaches. DePaul’s 15-3 conference play mark in 2018 lifts Lenti to a 428-87 in BIG EAST competitions in the Blue Demons’ 12 seasons as a member.
Heading into their semifinal matchup with Villanova, the Blue Demons are on a three-game winning streak overall and an eight-game BIG EAST contest win streak, dating back to April 21. This season, DePaul swept its meeting against the Wildcats in Chicago on March 30-31, taking all three contests in five-inning, run-rule victories. The Blue Demons powered through 15 innings of play to score 34 runs against the Wildcats while surrendering just six.
Freshman youth from the beginning of the season has now matured to veteran-like success on the field where Kate Polucha has emerged as one of DePaul’s biggest threats in the lineup. Polucha has led the deadly outfield trio, that includes Angela Scalzitti and Megan Leyva, with a .380 batting average where the left fielder has posted a .475 in conference play. Polucha’s 62 hits, including a team-high 29 in BIG EAST contests, led DePaul in 2018.
DePaul’s pitching staff has been the Blue Demons’ second featured trio of 2018. Each starter, including Pat Moore, Missy Zoch, and Kennedy Garcia, has won five games in the center circle where the Blue Demons have a 1.96 ERA against conference foes, combining for an overall ERA of 2.18 in 48 games.
Villanova (27-23-2, 10-8 BE) started off conference play 0-5 but regrouped and rallied back for 10 straight wins to earn the fourth and final seed of the 2018 tournament. While the Wildcats were swept by Creighton to end the regular season, they are looking to bounce back in tournament play.
The Wildcats are led at the plate by Nikki Alden and Brittany Husk. The duo has combined for 126 hits, driving in 61 hits. Husk led Villanova with 69 hits in 184 at bats and slugged for .543.
Friday’s semifinal meeting between DePaul and Villanova is the 29th all-time meeting between the two teams. The Blue Demons lead the all-time series 24-4, winning four straight. The two squads met in the 2017 semifinals of the BIG EAST tournament where DePaul shutout Villanova in a 4-0 victory. DePaul is 1-0 all-time against Villanova in tournament play.
Tickets are available now and can be purchased by calling the DePaul Ticket Office at 773-325-7526. General admission is $5 while youth (ages 12 & under) as well as BIG EAST member institution students (must have a present and valid school ID) are free.
The winner of this year’s BIG EAST tournament receives an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. On Sunday, ESPN 2 will host its annual NCAA Softball Championship Selection Show at 9 p.m. CT, revealing the 2018 tournament bracket.
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