Aces Go Face-to-Face at NCAA Regional
When Kirsten Verdun takes the mound on Friday, she will tie a DePaul record for most starts in a season.

May 17, 2012

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COLUMBIA, Mo. - Kirsten Verdun vs. Sara Plourde.

It's a pair of aces going face-to-face when DePaul (35-20) and Massachusetts (38-11) tangle at 4 p.m. Friday in the opener of the NCAA Regional at Missouri's University Field.

Just check out these numbers:

  • DePaul's Verdun is 26-13 with a 1.65 ERA while Plourde is 36-9 with a 1.73 ERA.
  • Verdun has 247 strikeouts in 250 innings while Plourde has 520 strikeouts in 295 innings.
  • Opposing teams are hitting .204 against Verdun and just .111 versus Plourde.

Plourde may feel like she has something to prove after giving up six runs in four innings during DePaul's 8-0, five-inning triumph over the Minutewomen Feb. 24 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla.

"We played well against Massachusetts on that day," said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti. "We took advantage of the opportunities to score runs on the seven hits we had.

"Verdun pitched a three-hitter and only gave up one walk. That's the key. When she doesn't walk people and keeps the ball in the park, she's tough to beat."

The sophomore left-hander will be making her 19th consecutive start on Friday, a stretch that began on April 15th and includes pitching both ends of five doubleheaders.

It will be Verdun's 40th start this year, tying the single-season record set by Sarah Martz in 2004.

Plourde has started 44 of Massachusetts' 49 games with 44 complete games and 13 shutouts as the Minutewomen are making their 16th NCAA tournament appearance in the last 17 years.

Verdun and Plourde are also the most dangerous offensive threats in this game. Verdun is batting .373 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs while Plourde is hitting .315 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.

Backing up Verdun are Samantha Dodd (.337), Mary Connolly (.298, five home runs, 31 RBIs), Lynsey Ciezki (.292, 33 runs), Allie Braden (.291) and Katelyn Braget (seven homers, 29 RBIs).

"Making the NCAA tournament is a culmination of all the hard work we've done this season," Lenti said of his team's 15th NCAA Championship appearance in the last 16 years. "It was our strength of schedule that put us over the top when it came to selecting teams for at-large berths.

"The fact that we ended up as the No. 2 seed at our regional means the selection committee thought we were one of the top 32 teams in the country."

This is the fourth year in a row the Blue Demons have been placed in the Missouri regional.

"It's all very familiar to us," Lenti said. "We know the hotel. We are familiar with the local restaurants and places to go. We know the field and the quirks that come along with it. This is only going to be new for our first-year players.

"There is a bit of a comfort level here for our team. We've had success at this venue and been able to beat Missouri down here.

"We wound up with as good a draw as you could ask for."

That's because in addition to beating UMass, DePaul has also beaten Illinois State (35-21), which opens against No. 10/9 Missouri (43-12) on Friday.

"To win the regional, your experienced players have to lead the way and perform well," Lenti said. "These are the kids who have already played in two or three NCAA regionals. You also need some contributions from your first-year players.

"Our players have to believe in themselves and not waste any opportunities. You need to be aggressive and focused like Alex Morocco was last year against Missouri in scoring the winning run with nobody covering home plate.

"After that game, Missouri was definitely prepared for us the rest of the tournament."

DePaul was among the final 20 teams in the NCAA tournament field last season, falling to the Tigers in the regional finals.



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