One way for Kirsten Verdun to tell she has made it at college softball's top level is that she cannot even get through meals lately without being interrupted.
It was not an autograph-seeking DePaul University fan that interrupted her at a restaurant recently. Instead it was a phone call with news she knew was "a possibility," but that she insists she was not expecting to receive.
"(Assistant director of communications) Bob (Sakamoto) from DePaul called me. I was out to eat with my friends," Verdun said. "My friends were all worried something was wrong at first, because I got pretty excited and was acting all jittery and everything."
The news was that Verdun had been named a 2012 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I All-American. Verdun, a Coal City native and DePaul sophomore, was chosen for the second team as an at-large utility-pitcher.
Roughly a week later, Verdun said that the news had sunk in. It took some time — she was "barely" able to finish her meal the night she found out.
"Pretty much the first thing I did was I called my parents, and my grandparents and my best friend, and let them know," Verdun said.
Handling the bulk of the pitching for a 36-22 Blue Demons team, Verdun went 27-15 with a 1.62 ERA and 266 strikeouts. She led them in eight major offensive categories, including batting average (.363), home runs (11) and RBI (41).
“That’s fantastic,” DePaul coach Eugene Lenti of the selection in a university release. “It’s very impressive, and I’m excited for her. It’s a well-deserved reward for all the hard work she has put in this season.”
When Verdun originally committed to DePaul, she expected to primarily play first base. Instead her pitching load has remained similar her senior season at Coal City High, when she worked in and won all 40 games. Verdun made a total of 43 pitching appearances this season, and her 42 starts and 272 innings are both single-season school records.
"I think it's just opportunity," Verdun said. "(Lenti) just said that he trusted me to try to help the team out. Pitching is how I do that. It's worked out all right."
The Blue Demons won eight of their last 10 regular-season games this season and their Big East Tournament opener over South Florida, 6-0. Louisville upended them 2-0 in the Big East semifinals. In NCAA Regional play, DePaul won 3-0 over UMass but was eliminated with consecutive losses to Missouri, 1-0 in nine innings, and Illinois State, 3-0.
"There's a certain level of accomplishment I think," Verdun said. "At the same time, I don't think satisfactory is the right word, because there are still better things we could be doing and improvements that could still be made.
"If you look at the teams that went to the College World Series, we either beat them or played them closely. We beat USF. We beat (Louisiana State). We played (California) to a 2-0 game. We take a lot of pride in the way we play the best teams in the nation."
Until Verdun and the Blue Demons get another crack at the NCAA's best next spring, she will suit up for another team. This will be her second summer as a part of the Indiana Slammers, which bills itself as "Indiana's Premier Women's Fastpitch Team."
Verdun will have to balance playing around her duties with the Orland A's, a suburban travel program. She helps coach the 10-and-under team. She would like to make three or four tournaments this summer with the Slammers.
"There are a lot of talented collegiate players and ex-collegiate players playing the tournaments," Verdun said. "It's fun to compete with and against some of the best."