In what is becoming an annual tradition (both in Columbia and on RMN), it is time to preview the Columbia Regional, which will start up at 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon. It is a standard, four-team, double-elimination format, so the #1 seeded Tigers will take on the #4 seeded Redbirds of Illinois State while the #2 seeded Indiana Hoosiers will take on the #3 seeded Depaul Blue Demons.
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Today, we finish our look at the (potential) Mizzou opponents by turning our gaze to the Blue Demons of Depaul. Will they out-perform their #3 seed in the Columbia Region? Let's see what the number say.
Overall, the Demons finished the season at 39-13 with a 19-2 record in the Big East Conference. They went 13-3 at home, a staggering 15-2 on the road, but only 11-8 at neutral site games. Their RPI is 32nd per the NCAA site (linked here). They run-ruled five opponents, were run-ruled themselves twice, took one forfeit from USF and went 4-2 in extra inning games.
The list is not quite as impressive as it has been the last two days, but still a number of common opponents:
- South Florida (Depaul won 13-5 in 6 innings, by forfiet and lost 4-2, Mizzou won 4-1)
- Illinois (Depaul won 2-0, Mizzou won 4-3 and 8-0 in 6 innings)
- Oklahoma (Depaul lost 4-3 in 8 innings, MU won 3-2 in 9 innings and 1-0 in 11 innings
- Sourthern Illinois (Depaul won 3-0 and 5-4, Mizzou won 3-0)
- Illinois State (Depaul won 10-6, Mizzou won 8-2, 9-0 in 5 innings and 10-0 in 5 innings)
- Texas (Depaul lost 11-3 in 5 innings, Mizzou won 6-3 and lost 2-0)
I show Depaul going 20-11 in non-conference action, and while they played some decent teams, they were probably the least-tested of the other two teams we have already reviewed. Their best three non-con opponents were Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona, with each game resulting in a loss. They were able to register solid wins against #28 Indiana (7-3), #38 UAB (1-0) and #41 Illinois (2-0). Their worst non-con loss would be a 4-1 defeat against #105 New Mexico. Their "worst" win would come against #186 Nevada by the score of 3-2.
Big East Action:
The 19-2 record in conference was good enough for 2nd place overall, but should also be communicated with a caveat that the schedule is not balanced. For instance, #2 Depaul never played #1 (#17 RPI) Notre Dame or #3 (#26 RPI) Syracuse in the regular season. Depaul's best win of the year is actually against Indiana, as Louisville (#24 RPI) was the best team from the Big East who they would play, and they lost 2-1 and 13-2 in 5 innings, which were their only losses in the conferece season. Once in the Big East tourney, they defeated Rutgers (who they had defeated earlier in the season 15-10...in TEN INNINGS), before falling to Syracuse 2-0 in the semis.
Overall, the team hit a solid .290 (MU .306) with just 30 HR's (MU 58) and and a team slugging percentage of .406 (MU .497). At the plate the team was lead by senior outfielder Sean Plese, who led the team in batting average (.404 in 43 games). Right behind her, and probably the best hitter on the team was senior outfielder Alex Morocco who batted .399 on the year and led the team in hits (67), stolen bases (13) and runs (T-37). For power (and there was not a ton of it), Depaul leaned on sophomore outfielder Samantha Dodd, who was 2nd on the team in HR's with 5 and stolen bases with 10, but who also posted a .395 batting average and a team-high 10 doubles. The biggest bopper in the lineup was freshman pitcher Kristen Verdun, who not only posted a lovely .326 batting average, but also led the team in HR's (11), RBI's (42), total bases (84), and slugging (.622). Depaul showed decent speed on the basepaths, as they managed 56 steals on 74 attempts (MU 86)
Depaul posted a tremendous fielding percentage of .979 (MU .972). The weakest link would be light-hitting (and it seems everyone who makes the most errors these days is also light-hitting) senior shortstop Brittany Yniguez, who had 8 errors and a .948 fielding percentage (while hitting .161 in 51 games)
It looks like Depaul will bring three pitchers with them, all of whom have seen different amounts of action, but who each recorded three saves. The best of the three (from an ERA standpoint) would be senior Lindsey Dean. She sports a 10-6 record on the year, with an 1.80 ERA over 97 innings. She gave up 86 hits and 36 walks, while striking out 62. The pitcher who saw "part time" duty for the Demons was sophomore Bree Brown. Brown struggled the most of the three, going 6-4 on the season with a hefty 4.28 ERA over 85 innings. She gave up 87 hits and 27 walks, while striking out a solid 113. The best of the three, and the one who saw the most work was the freshman Verdun. Over 159.1 innings, she carried a respectable 2.24 ERA on her way to a fantastic 22-3 record. She had 27 starts and 12 complete games, while giving up 146 hits and 44 walks, while striking out 134. In the end, not OVERPOWERING numbers (not like Thomas or Melloh from Indiana), but certainly respectable. How will the freshman handle the spotlight and the potential workload? That (obviously) remains to be seen.
There are still a number of Depaul players who likely remember the stinging defeat they faced at the hands of the Tigers just over two years ago. As the #15 seed, Depaul was forced to go on the road to Columbia (defeat #1) for what is now the first of three straight regionals in Columbia. The Tigers had really come into their own behind Chelsea Thomas, Kristen Nottelmann and veteran Stacey Delaney in the circle, and the hitting of folks like Taylor and MARLA SCHWEISBERGER. The clinching game was a marvelous pitching duel between the true freshman Thomas and Depaul ace Becca Heteniak. As recapped here, Mizzou would only get four hits on the day, but they would only need one, a 6th inning homerun by then-sophomore Taylor which propelled the Tigers to a 1-0 win and a regional championship.
That being (fondly) remembered, the Blue Demons have five likely starters (four seniors and one junior) who will remember those games. They are coached by a living legend in Eugene Lenti, whose next win will be his 1,101st overall. Depaul has made the NCAA tourney 14 of the last 15 years and they will certainly have that experience to draw upon against upstart Indiana in the first game. Based upon the previous result, I believe it will be Depaul who Mizzou will end up having to get through on their way to their fourth straight Super Regional date.