Tracking DePaul's Timeline of Champions
May 25, 2017
CHICAGO – It was seven of the most compelling, pulsating and exhilarating minutes in the recent history of DePaul athletics.
Imagine the thoughts and feelings racing through the minds of student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans as the Blue Demon softball and men’s track and field teams almost simultaneously scale the heights of capturing a BIG EAST Conference title.
While coach Eugene Lenti and his players were facing St. John’s at the Ballpark at Rosemont on that fateful May 13 Saturday afternoon, coach Dave Dopek and his athletes were 745 miles away on the threshold of winning their very first BIG EAST outdoor track and field title at Villanova.
Athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., were in the stands at Rosemont cheering on the softball players while Ponsetto fielded real-time texts and e-mail reports from track and field administrator Doug Bakker at Villanova Stadium.
“Father Dennis and I were in the moment and enjoying it,” Ponsetto said. “Between watching softball come back from being down 2-1 and keeping up with men’s track---I’ve never experienced two teams in the hunt simultaneously to win a championship. It was exhilarating. Father Dennis and I were so focused and locked in.
“It was terrific to be able to share this with Father Dennis. He has done so much for our program, especially with Wintrust Arena and helping to create the new BIG EAST. I was so happy he got to see all his dedication and sacrifice come to fruition right before his eyes. I saw how happy he was being a part of this special moment for DePaul.”
Here is a timeline chronicling the sequence of events leading up to the “Double-Demon” championships.
Saturday, May 13
“The temperature was 50 degrees and it rained from 11 p.m. Friday all the way to the awards ceremony on Saturday,” Dopek said. “We really had to be grinders and mentally tough. I didn’t hear a single complaint, and that was a testament to how much we wanted it.
“Assistant coach Brandon Murer told everyone on Friday night there was a huge storm over the area. Then he said: ‘We’re going to be that storm.’”
1:26 p.m. – Men’s shot put results official online with Kyle Hedge, Isaac Jimenez and Trevor Kintyhtt finishing 1-2-3 and Dominic Marshall fifth to score 28 team points and overtake Marquette in the team standings.
“That shot put finish felt amazing,” Hedge said. “We all came together and it worked out so well. We all had each other’s backs and were getting each other pumped up for the throws. Will Hauser contributed by shagging the shots and keeping them dry. That was critical, and our coaches, parents and teammates helping out was really huge.”
1:48 p.m. – Bakker texts that men’s track is in a dogfight with Marquette.
2:16 p.m. – Nicole Pihl’s RBI single in the top of the third gives DePaul a 1-0 lead.
2:29 p.m. – Sebastian Feyersinger wins the 200-meter dash and scores the eventual team winning point.
“There was a lot of pressure on me in the 200,” Feyersinger said. “I was the only one from DePaul to qualify for the finals and Marquette had four. I told myself I had to come in first to seal the deal.
“I do really well when there’s a lot of pressure. I have a slow block start, so I try to stay within two steps of the guy with the fastest start. Halfway through the race, I knew I could hunt him down. I came in first by five meters.”
2:32 p.m. – Bakker texts that he feels good about men’s track chances. Ponsetto replies: Yea! Softball up 1-0 after 3½ innings.
2:45 p.m. – St. John’s scores twice in the bottom of the fourth and goes ahead 2-1.
3:00 p.m. – Blue Demons retake the lead 4-2 in the top of the fifth on Megan Leyva’s sacrifice fly RBI and Haydn Christensen’s two-out, two-run single through the left side.
“I knew (St. John’s ace) Tori Free had been effective with her changeup, so I was going to swing at the first hard pitch she threw,” Christensen said. “She started me out with two straight changeups for strikes. There was a lot of pressure with the oh-two count, and now I was swinging at anything close.
“She threw an inside drop ball and I threw my hands at it. I made contact and coaches always tell you to run hard and not look at the ball. Well, I watched the third basemen going into the five/six hole and saw it barely get past her as I was running. I knew I had a hit.
“It felt like a lot of weight was just taken off our shoulders. When I came to the dugout after the inning was over, all my teammates were waiting to give me high-fives. We were so into this game.”
3:08 p.m. – Bakker texts: Men have a chance to score most points ever. Ponsetto: Awesome, up 4-2 after five.
3:22 p.m. – Bakker texts: We have a 21-point lead with two events to go. The most the next team can score is 20.
3:35 p.m. – Ponsetto texts: So excited for the men. We’re up 4-3 and batting top of seventh.
3:39 p.m. – Alysia Rodriguez rips a two-run triple down the right-field line providing a 6-3 lead in the top of the seventh.
“We were only ahead 4-3 when I came to bat with one out,” Rodriguez said. “The first sign Eug (Eugene Lenti) gave me was the bunt sign and I missed on the attempt. A good pitcher will come back with another good outside drop to make it difficult to bunt.
“Well, Eug thought he flashed me the bunt sign again, but it was actually the hit-and-run. It was another outside pitch and I went hard after it, hitting it down the right-field line for a triple and two RBIs.
“Eug had meant to give me the bunt sign again, but the hit-and-run inadvertently crossed up Free as their first baseman came charging in. When I got to third, Eug said: ‘Thanks for making me look good.’”
Lenti: “The softball gods were looking out for us, and it was very fortuitous she got a good pitch to hit the other way.”
3:50 p.m. – Thanks to Sabrina Kuchta’s two-run single, DePaul leads by five heading into the bottom of the seventh.
3:52 p.m. – Bakker texts: One event to go, 200 points in sight. Ponsetto: Terrific! We’re up now 8-3 in bottom of seventh.
4:00 p.m. – St. John’s loads the bases with two outs and the infield meets with pitcher Missy Zoch in the circle.
Christensen: “The batter coming up (Christina Melendez) had been hitting shots including an RBI double. So we began counting on our fingers what would happen if she hit a grand slam. One-two-three-four---good, we’d still be ahead by one.”
Lenti: “We were thinking the same thing in the dugout---but I didn’t need my fingers.”
4:02 p.m. – Bakker texts: Awesome Championship Saturday!
“She hit a grounder with a money hop right to my chest,” Haydn said. “My momentum was going toward first base so it was an easy throw. Before the ball even got there, I was already running toward Missy. She had pitched such a good game.
“It was so exciting I got to make the last play on that field and throw it to my sister. I love watching the replay with the announcer saying ‘Christensen to Christensen.’”
4:07 p.m. – Final BIG EAST track & field event finishes, team scores remain unofficial.
4:10 p.m. – BIG EAST track & field scores complete and DePaul on top with 204 points, giving the Blue Demons their first BIG EAST outdoor title.
Feyersinger: “I’m a serious guy and saved my celebrating for after we officially won the title. I started dancing around, and our whole team went on a victory lap and took photos.”
Hedge: “I was going around to all the guys giving them hugs and thanking them for doing their jobs. We left everything we had on the track and field. We won the school’s only outdoor conference title doing your best for the guy on your left.”
Dopek: “What was the most rewarding was watching a group of young men navigate the highs and lows of a season. Winning an outdoor title has a very special meaning.
“I was most excited about what we did for the alumni. After we won the BIG EAST indoor meet, I heard from quite a few people. But the outpouring of emotion by so many people after we won outdoor from recent graduates to alums who graduated in the mid-1960s---it was a lot to be proud of.”
Father Dennis enjoyed being at the epicenter of all this fun energy.
“I got to sit next to Jeanne, and it was so much fun watching the softball game and hearing the constant reports from her about the track meet,” he said. “I was really happy for the players in that moment. I was down on the field for the postgame festivities and when they saw the box with BIG EAST champion stuff, they screamed: ‘We get hats!’ They were so genuinely excited about the hats and T-shirts.
“That glorious day capped off a spectacular year with all the different teams (women’s soccer, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis, softball, men’s track and field indoor and outdoor) winning so many titles. It’s pretty amazing. It’s the best in my 13 years here.
“Nearly a dozen years ago, we took our place in the BIG EAST. Now, we are moving up and taking our place at the front of the BIG EAST.”
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