2022 Big East Softball Championship Game #3

BIG EAST Softball Championship: Quarterfinals Recap

BIG EAST Softball Championship: Quarterfinals Recap

Day one of the BIG EAST Softball Championship set the tone for a fantastic tournament going forward.

May 13, 2022 by Briar Napier
BIG EAST Softball Championship: Quarterfinals Recap

Well, well, well. Thursday proved for certain that nothing is for certain in BIG EAST Championship softball.

Of the four teams that earned their way to play this weekend in the BIG EAST Softball Championship in Rosemont, Illinois, it was the lowest seeds that shined Thursday as neither the 3 or 4 seed in the field entered Friday with losses.

With the league’s best pitching rotation out of the picture, there’s sure to be plenty of fireworks over the next 48 hours. Where they’ll come from, however, is anyone’s guess.

Here’s the scoop on the quarterfinal round ahead of Friday’s semifinals, which will be streamed live on FloSoftball if you can’t make it to Chicagoland.

DePaul Puts UConn On The Ropes

Remember when we pointed out that DePaul went an unimpressive 3-6 against fellow tournament teams (including being swept by UConn)? The Blue Demons must’ve gotten the message to step it up, because DePaul’s 6-2 win over the Huskies in the Championship opener was downright impressive. 

A four-run outburst in the fourth inning was the defining point in the game, with singles from DePaul’s pair of recently-named All-BIG EAST First Teamers—first baseman Brooke Johnson and left fielder Kate Polucha—each scoring two RBI as coach Tracie Adix-Zins’ team was able to rid itself of the voodoo it’s had this season against UConn in a big way. 

Graduate pitcher Sarah Lehman (15-5) was excellent on the mound, holding the Huskies scoreless for five innings before finishing her complete-game performance with just two hits allowed to go along with five strikeouts. Thanks to the upset, DePaul is now in the driver’s seat headed into Friday’s play with two losses to spare, helped by the fact the UConn game was its only one of the day Thursday. The Huskies rebounded well to beat Butler 4-1 later in the day, but now can’t afford a second slip-up—and could see DePaul again Friday. 

DePaul Vs. UConn

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Villanova Shuts Out Butler

The two best pitching staffs in the BIG EAST this year squaring off in postseason play was always going to be highly-anticipated, with the stakes amped up significantly from prior matchups in 2022. In playoff time, consider it currently advantage: Villanova. 

It was ace-on-ace Thursday afternoon, but the Wildcats’ Paige Rauch (15-6) got the better of the Bulldogs’ Alyssa Graves (14-4) as 'Nova beat Butler 2-0 to give itself a bit of comfort into Friday—and follow up on DePaul’s lower-seeded triumph from earlier in the day. Rauch allowed just four hits with Graves allowing seven, one of which came when shortstop Megan Kern smacked an RBI single in the first inning to get the Wildcats up early. 

Villanova got its second in the third inning when third baseman Chloe Smith got home second baseman Angela Giampolo from a sacrifice fly, and Rauch didn’t budge on the mound despite Butler getting a runner to third in the bottom of the fifth, striking out 12 Bulldogs. The Wildcats have the benefit of an extra loss to play with, but the rotation must come up big as the BIG EAST’s top offense in DePaul awaits with plenty of confidence behind it after beating the tournament’s top seed.

Butler The First Team Out

It was bound to happen to one team, but perhaps many BIG EAST softball fans didn’t have Butler going out so early. A lack of offense had been a glaring weak point for the Bulldogs all season and something that they band-aided throughout the year by having the BIG EAST’s best rotation by team ERA and simply not needing to score as many runs to win. 

On Thursday, that strategy backfired. Butler scored just once in 14 innings and was officially eliminated from the BIG EAST Championship after UConn beat it 4-1 in the Thursday finale. Butler did lead for a portion of the game, scoring first in the second inning through a bases-loaded walk, but the Huskies responded with their backs against the wall by notching runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to seal the deal and stay alive to move onto Friday. 

Despite a 31-17 record on the year, Butler is almost certainly nowhere close to qualifying as an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament this month, with an RPI of 110, marking a bitter end to what was overall a strong season for the Bulldogs.