April 25, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - After clinching two of its past three conference series, the Villanova softball team makes its way to Chicago, Ill. over the weekend to take on BIG EAST regular-season champ DePaul for a three-game set.
Kate Poppe banners a pitching staff that ranks third in the conference with a 2.49 ERA, while limiting opponents to a .236 batting average. The reigning BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week ranks seventh in the country with 254 strikeouts and is holding hitters to a league-best .184 average at the plate. She allows only 4.32 hits per seven innings which is good for the 15th best mark in the NCAA.
The offensive attack has picked up for Villanova recently. In the past 12 games, the team is hitting .278 compared to their opponents .260 batting average, knocking six homeruns, 24 doubles and 44 runs scored.
Three spots in the BIG EAST tournament remain up for grabs with DePaul already clinching the top-spot. Currently, the Wildcats sit in seventh place with a 5-10 record and six conference games remaining.
Georgetown and Seton Hall are tied for second and third in the standings, boasting an 8-7 record, while St. John's and Butler are tied for the final playoff spot at 7-7. With a three game home series versus St. John's remaining in the final weekend of the regular-season and Villanova already owning the tiebreaker against Butler after taking two of three games, the Wildcats have plenty of room to make up some ground in the standings and earn a trip to Rosemont, Ill. for the tournament.
DePaul boasts a 13-0 record against conference opponents, earning the Blue Demons the regular-season crown with two series remaining. The regular-season title is the fourth overall for DePaul and third outright in the BIG EAST. Headlined by pitcher Kirsten Verdun, the Blue Demons rely heavily on the senior to produce as she has tossed 178 of the team's 265 innings on the season. Verdun is 23-5 on the bump with a 1.89 ERA and 201 strikeouts, trailing only Poppe and Creighton's Becca Changstrom.
The Blue Demons claim the BIG EAST's top offense with a .310 team batting average. Leading the attack for DePaul are three hitters that are a staple atop the league's offensive categories. Mary Connoly is batting a conference-high .422 with 11 homeruns and 35 RBI. Verdun and Morgan Maize account for 41 RBI and 43 runs scored, collectively.