DePaul Sweeps BIG EAST Softball Major Awards

Mary Connolly, DePaul

Mary Connolly, DePaul

May 6, 2014

NEW YORK, N.Y. – BIG EAST regular-season champion DePaul swept all four softball major awards, as announced by the league on Tuesday. Junior first baseman Mary Connolly was tabbed BIG EAST Player of the Year, senior lefty Kirsten Verdun was the unanimous Pitcher of the Year, outfielder Dyaln Christensen was named Rookie of the Year and Eugene Lenti and his crew were selected BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year.

The major award sweep is the fifth in BIG EAST history with DePaul becoming the third different team to claim all four certificates and first since 2001. 

At regular-season’s end, Connolly boasted league-best marks in batting average (.412), slugging percentage (.772), runs scored (39), runs batted in (41) and on base percentage (.500), while ranking second in total bases (105) and third in home runs (13) and hits (56). The two-time BIG EAST Player of the Week this season is the lone batter in the conference to hit above .400 in all games, and is also among the leaders in league play at .481. Connolly is DePaul’s first BIG EAST Player of the Year since the Blue Demons joined the conference prior to the start of the 2006 season.

Over 207 innings pitched, Verdun shows a BIG EAST-best 1.79 earned run average with 246 strikeouts. Along with a league-high 28 wins, she also has a conference-best four saves in 37 total appearances. The unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team selection has limited opponents to a .197 batting average and struck out 58 looking. Verdun’s 13 wins in league play are tied for fourth-most in conference history, while her 89 Ks in BIG EAST games adds her name to the single-season strikeout list for the third time in her career. Her 132 strikeouts as a sophomore still rank atop the list, while her 125 from 2013 are tied for second and 89 from this season are tied for 23rd.  Verdun is DePaul’s third BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and first since 2009, joining two-time honoree Becca Heteniak (2008, 2009) and Tracie Adix (2007).



Christensen becomes DePaul’s fourth BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and first since Verdun earned the accolade in 2011. The freshman ranks third in BIG EAST play in batting average at .449, highest among newcomers, while her 20 RBI and seven doubles rank second among all league players. In all games, the outfielder ranks third on DePaul in batting average (.341), second in slugging percentage (.556) and tied for the lead with 15 doubles.

BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year goes to Lenti and company for the fourth time and first since 2010. The Blue Demons enter the postseason 39-9 (.812) for their most wins since 2011, and have been victorious in 21 of their last 22 tilts. DePaul leads the BIG EAST in nearly every statistical category, from batting average (.311) to ERA (2.12), doubles (75) to home runs (44). The Blue Demons clinched their fourth BIG EAST regular-season crown in 2014, finishing the league season 18-1 and winning their first 17 conference contests.

DePaul totaled a league-high six All-BIG EAST honorees, including a conference-best four on the first team. Verdun (unanimous), Connolly, Chirstensen and Megan Coronado all earned first-team recognition, while Staci Bonezek and Allie Braden were placed on the All-BIG EAST Second Team.

BIG EAST Championship No. 2 seed St. John’s followed with five all-league players. Erin Burner was a unanimous pick as first-team catcher and was joined by Kaitlin Fitzgerald, while Tori Free, Jackie Reed and Brittany Garcia were all named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team.

Fellow BIG EAST Championship competitors Georgetown (No. 3) and Creighton (No. 4) each had four players selected as BIG EAST all-stars. The Hoyas had one on the first team (Elyse Graziano) and three on the second (Megan Hyson, Alexandria Anttila, Samantha Giovanniello), while league newcomer CU placed three on the first squad (Becca Changstrom, Liz Dike, Alexis Cantu) and one on the second (Blair Lowe).

Seton Hall (two first team, one second) and Providence (one first team, one second) also had multiple players recognized on All-BIG EAST Teams, while Butler and Villanova sported one honoree apiece.

The BIG EAST Championship featuring DePaul, St. John’s, Georgetown and Creighton kicks off on Friday, May 9, in Rosemont, Ill. The top-seeded Blue Demons and fourth-seeded Bluejays will face each other at 2 p.m. (ET), followed by the No. 2 seed Red Storm against the No 3. Seed Hoyas at 4:30 (ET). Both BIG EAST Semifinal games can be watched live on the FOX Sports Go app, or viewed via tape delay at 7:30 p.m. (ET) and 9:30 p.m. (ET) on FOX Sports 2. Saturday’s BIG EAST Final will air live at Noon (ET) on FOX Sports 1.

All-BIG EAST First Team^
Becca Changstrom, Creighton, Sr., P
Kirsten Verdun, DePaul, Sr., P*
Erin Burner, St. John’s, Jr., C*
Mary Connolly, DePaul, Jr., 1B
Kristin Boros, Butler, Jr., 2B
Liz Dike, Creighton, Jr., SS
Kaitlin Fitzgerald, St. John’s, Fr., 3B
Alexis Cantu, Creighton, Sr., P/UT
Danielle DeStaso, Seton Hall, Jr., DP/UT
Kiarra Baldassari, Providence, So., OF
Dylan Christensen, DePaul, Fr., OF
Megan Coronado, DePaul, Sr., OF
Jacqueline DiPietro, Seton Hall, So., OF
Elyse Graziano, Georgetown, Sr., OF
*unanimous selection
^Due to a three-way tie for All-BIG EAST First Team outfielders, two extra players were added

All-BIG EAST Second Team
Tori Free, St. John’s, So., P
Kate Poppe, Villanova, So., P
Staci Bonezek, DePaul, Jr., C
Jackie Reed, St. John’s, Sr., 1B
Maria DeLuca, Seton Hall, Sr., 2B
Allie Braden, DePaul, Sr., SS
Blair Lowe, Creighton, Sr., 3B
Megan Hyson, Georgetown, Jr., P/UT
Danielle Deraney, Providence, So., DP/UT
Alexandria Anttila, Georgetown, Sr., OF
Brittany Garcia, St. John’s, Fr., OF
Samantha Giovanniello, Georgetown, So., OF

BIG EAST Player of the Year
Mary Connolly, DePaul, Jr., 1B

BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year
Kirsten Verdun, DePaul, Sr., P*

BIG EAST Rookie of the Year
Dylan Christensen, DePaul, Fr., OF

BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year
Head Coach Eugene Lenti and DePaul

*unanimous selection