OMAHA, Neb. -- Alexis Cantu hit a 3-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Creighton Softball a 5-4, win over Missouri State on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Creighton's victory came after a pair of rallies from two-run deficits in the final two innings against MSU ace Natalie Rose after the all-Valley pitcher had kept CU off the scoreboard in her first 14 innings of the weekend.
Missouri State drew first blood on Sunday from an unlikely source, as Rebecca McPherson's two-run homer in the fourth inning was her first of the year.
The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the seventh, when CU strung along some late-inning magic against Rose.
Amy Baker, hitless in eight at-bats against MSU this weekend, started the rally with an infield single. Pinch-runner Emily Perry would race to third on a double to right-center by Blair Lowe, putting the tying runs in scoring position. Head coach Brent Vigness then called upon pinch-hittter Brittnie Kreiser, who lined a double just inside the left-field line to tie the score at 2-all. Liz Dike advanced Kreiser to third base with a ball to the warning track in right before Christa Ruf fanned for the second out. CU nearly won the game when Rose's 2-2 pitch in the dirt to Ellen Homan trickled through the legs of catcher Stacia Boeckstiegel, but the backstop retrieved the ball and dove towards the plate to cut down a sliding Kreiser and send the game into extra innings.
Cantu came on to pitch the beginning of the eighth inning. Heather Duckworth greeted her with a double off the left-field wall before Cantu got back-to-back groundouts that kept Duckworth frozen at second. But MSU's Stevie Pierce went deep with a homer to right, giving the Bears a 4-2 lead heading to the bottom of the eighth inning.
Creighton had the top of the order up at the plate to start the eighth, and Homan started things with a bunt single. Homan moved to second on Allie Mathewson's infield single, bringing up the MVC's most-feared hitter. Cantu ended things when she tagged a 1-1 change-up from Rose into the netting above the second fence in dead-center. The three-run homer was her 16th of the season and gave her single-season league records with 13 homers and 34 RBI in conference play.
Cantu improved to 8-5 with the victory after relieving Brittany Telecky. Telecky made her first start of the season after 20 previous relief appearances and threw a career-long seven innings, yielding just two runs and six hits.
CU's offense was paced by three hits from Homan, who went 8-for-11 on the weekend to extend her hitting streak to 11 and push her season batting average to .376. Lowe, who scored the tying run in the seventh, went 2-for-3 to lift her batting average to .301 on the year.
MSU was led by Duckworth's two hits, while Pierce and McPherson each had two RBI with their home runs. Rose dropped to 16-15 after allowing nine hits and five runs in seven-plus innings of work.
Creighton (27-24-1, 15-11 MVC) will head to Carbondale, Ill., next week for the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Jays will be the No. 5 seed and open play on Thursday at 11:05 a.m. vs. eighth-seeded Evansville. MSU (24-25, 12-14 MVC) will be the sixth-seed and play seventh-seeded Bradley to open defense of its 2011 tournament title.
NOTES: Missouri State had been 18-0 when leading after six innings, while Creighton had been 1-14-1 when trailing after six innings ... Alexis Cantu's three RBI give her 46 on the year, tied with Amy Baker (in both 2010 and 2012 ) for second-most in CU single-season history ... Cantu's 16 homers are tied for third-most in CU single-season history ... Cantu's blast was CU's first walk-off home run since Sammy Snygg defeated Bradley on April 2, 2011 ... Allie Mathewson's run gave her 43 this year, fourth-most in CU single-season history ... Creighton's 286 runs this season are a school-record, surpassing the 2004 team's 282 runs ... Creighton's 150 runs in MVC play are second-most in league history, nine behind the 2005 Southern Illinois team ... CU finished 11-5 at home ... In MVC games only, Creighton had numerous individual league-leaders, including Bri Lingl (.405 batting average), Ellen Homan (35 hits), Liz Dike (10 2-out RBI) and Alexis Cantu (.447 average with RISP, 13 homers, 34 RBI, 70 total bases, 1.000 slugging percentage and .543 on-base percentage).
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