Softball Travels to Central Arkansas for Tournament

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Head coach Brent Vigness
Courtesy: Jason Wise Photography

This Week: Creighton softball travels to the UCA Tournament this weekend in Conway, Ark., hosted by Central Arkansas. The Bluejays are scheduled to play four games this weekend beginning Friday. Creighton (2-3) opens against Ball State at 11 a.m. CT followed by a game against host Central Arkansas later in the day at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, CU faces Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 11 a.m. for its only contest of the day. The Jays conclude the tourney Sunday morning at 9 a.m. against Grambling State.

Following the Jays: Live stats links for this weekend can be found on the softball schedule page of GoCreighton.com. Fans can also keep in touch with Creighton softball on Twitter - @BluejaySoftball and Facebook - www.facebook.com/CreightonSoftball.

Last Season: The Bluejays return 11 players from last season's team that compiled a 28-25-1 overall record and finished fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) at 15-11. Creighton finished last season with a school-record 294 runs. CU led the MVC with a .292 batting average, 56 homers, 275 RBI and a .464 slugging percentage. The Jays ranked in the NCAA top 30 in scoring (No. 20), home runs per game (No. 22) and slugging percentage (No. 27) in 2012.

Preseason Predictions: The Creighton softball team placed four players on the 2013 preseason all-conference team as the league's coaches picked the Bluejays to finish fourth in the MVC, the league office announced Jan. 23.

The fourth-place prediction is the highest preseason ranking for the Bluejays since 2010 when they were picked to win the Valley. Creighton has finished lower than fourth in the MVC regular season standings just three times in the past 16 seasons.

Senior catcher Amy Baker earned the second All-MVC preseason selection of her career to go with a nod from 2011 during her sophomore campaign. Additionally, three juniors claimed their first preseason honors in designated player and pitcher Alexis Cantu, pitcher Becca Changstrom and outfielder Ellen Homan. All four of the CU honorees earned All-MVC accolades after last season.

The four CU player selections match Southern Illinois for the most on the 2013 preseason squad. Additionally, the four players on the preseason all-conference team are the most for any Creighton squad dating back to 2004 when three Jays earned All-MVC preseason honors and current assistant Abby Johnson collected honorable mention recognition.

Head Coach: The winningest coach in Creighton athletics history, Brent Vigness is in his 20th season at the helm of one of the most successful programs in the Midwest and Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). He carries a 608-431-3 record after 19 seasons at Creighton and boasts a 756-502-4 overall record with five years at Assumption College prior to beginning at CU.

A three-time MVC Coach of the Year, he has led the Bluejays to six MVC regular-sea­son titles (1998-2000, 2007-09), six Valley tournament titles (1999, 2003-05, 2007, 2010) and seven NCAA regional appearances (1999, 2003-05, 2007-08, 2010). He claimed MVC Coach of the Year honors in 1998 and guided the MVC Coaching Staffs of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

Vigness coached his 1,000th game at Creighton and recorded his 600th win at CU in 2012.

Last Time Out: Creighton had the week off from action last week after opening at the Kajikawa Classic Feb. 7-9 with wins over New Mexico and Oregon State, leading to a 2-3 record. The Bluejays are 5-6 all-time at the Kajikawa Classic following a 3-3 ledger at Tempe in 2010.

Scouting Creighton (2-3): The Bluejays saw some success at the Kajikawa Classic two weeks ago with wins over a 2012 top-25 team in New Mexico and Oregon State who received votes in this week's National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll.

Four of Creighton's five contests were within a margin of four runs. The exception was a 13-3 setback to then-No. 14 Florida. Since that time the Gators have rocketed up nine spots to No. 5 in this week's NFCA poll with an unblemished 12-0 record.

Creighton dropped a 5-2 contest to San Diego State who received votes in the USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll this week. The Jays' other decision in Tempe was a tight 4-3 setback to Stephen F. Austin.

Two weeks into the season, Creighton ranks fifth in the Valley with a .265 batting average. In the circle, the Jays stand sixth in the MVC with a 3.84 ERA.

Individually, CU freshman Kelsey Allender is eighth in the conference with a .417 batting average. Creighton boasts half of the top six in slugging percentage with senior Amy Baker (No. 3 - .813), senior Sammy Snygg (No. 4 - .778) and junior Alexis Cantu (No. 6 - .714).

Junior Beccas Changstrom is sixth in the league with a .247 opposing batting average. She ranks at No. 6 with 26 strikeouts this year.

Scouting the Opponents: Creighton stands undefeated at 8-0 all-time against its four opponents this weekend. 

Ball State (3-1): The Cardinals enter the tournament with three wins at the KSU Classic hosted by Kennesaw State last weekend. BSU won its first three games of the year by a margin of 27-5 with two shutouts. The Cardinals topped IUPUI 15-5, beat UT Martin 2-0 and blanked Tennessee Tech 10-0 in five innings before an 8-6 setback to Eastern Kentucky.

Ball State finished 2012 with an impressive 40-15 overall record, winning the Mid-American Conference Western Division and regular-season titles. But the Cardinals went 1-2 in their conference tournament and were not selected as an NCAA at-large squad last season.

In 2012, Ball State led the nation with 0.6 double plays per game. On offense the Cardinals ranked second in the country in doubles per game at 1.82, fifth in scoring with 6.69 runs per contest, sixth in slugging percentage (.543) and eighth in the NCAA with a .318 batting average.

BSU is the preseason favorite to win both the 2013 Mid-American Conference West Division title and the 2013 MAC Tournament as voted on by the league's 12 head coaches.

The team returns 12 letterwinners and seven position starters from last season's squad including 2012 MAC Player of the Year and First Team All-MAC selection Jennifer Gilbert who finished last season ranked in the top 40 nationally in runs per game (fifth), doubles per game (10th), home runs per game (17th), home runs (19th), triples (28th), slugging percentage (37th) and RBI per game (37th).

Other All-MAC players returning to the Ball State lineup this season include second-team selections Amanda Carpenter, Audrey Bickel and Hanne Stuedemann.

Creighton is 2-0 all-time against Ball State but the programs have not met since 1991. That year the Bluejays beat BSU 2-0 at the South Florida Classic. In 1989, Creighton edged the Cardinals 2-1 at the Texas A&M Invitational.

Central Arkansas (5-5): The tournament host Bears enter their tourney at .500 on the year on a three-game losing streak. After an impressive 4-2 win over Ole Miss Feb. 15, UCA dropped three straight including a pair to South Alabama.

Last season Central Arkansas experienced its most successful season ever, compiling a record of 36-22 and reaching the Southland Conference Tournament for the first time in school history.

The Bears were picked to finish no worse than third in the preseason Southland Conference polls. In the coaches' poll, Central Arkansas ranked third place behind Sam Houston State and McNeese State. In the media poll the Bears fared better trailing only SHSU.

UCA placed six players named to All-Southland Conference preseason teams. Of the six All-SLC honorees, three were seniors and three were sophomores. Central Arkansas evenly distributed its honorees between the first and second teams, with utility player Melissa Bryant, outfielder Stephanie Lasley, and pitcher Kelsie Armstrong being named to the first team, while catcher Melanie Bryant, third baseman Tiffany Roby, and first baseman Ashley Boswell were named to the second team.

Creighton is 2-0 all-time against UCA. The Bluejays beat the Bears twice in 2007 at the UCA Spring Clash. CU won the contests by scores of 8-1 and 5-0 over the Bears during the opening weekend six seasons ago.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4): Creighton is familiar with UAPB after starting the 2012 season with a four-game sweep against the Lady Lions during the opening weekend.

After a combined no-hitter between Sammy Snygg and Alexis Cantu in the series finale, the Jays completed the series sweep in Pine Bluff. Creighton scored at least 10 runs in each game of the four-game series for its highest scoring four-game span in school history, outscoring the Lady Lions 54-4.

Under first-year head coach Tiffany Ansley, the 2013 Lady Lions are winless on the year after a pair of losses to Division II foe Southern Arkansas and doubleheader losses to Central Arkansas.

Three UAPB players are hitting over .300 this season led by Jasmine Hardwrick at .375.  Lacie Sutterfield is second on the squad hitting .333 at the plate and Alexsis McCain also owns a .333 average. Sutterfield also has two starts in the circle with one complete game and a team-best 7.00 ERA.  

Creighton is 4-0 all-time against UAPB after sweeping a four-game set to open 2012.

Grambling State (2-4): Creighton faces Grambling State for the first time on the softball diamond on Sunday. GSU comes into the tourney at 2-4 after a two-game sweep of NAIA member Texas College on Feb. 19.

The Lady Tigers opened the season at the Louisiana-Monroe Leadoff Classic. GSU did not score a run in its first three outings of the season, falling to UC Santa Barbara 6-0 in its opener before a pair of 8-0 shortened-game losses to ULM and MVC member Wichita State. Grambling State ended the tourney on a 6-3 loss to Southeast Missouri State.

GSU was picked to finish sixth this year in the preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference Coaches poll. 

Briana Carmouche and Mikiesha Henson are the only Lady Tigers with five or more starts this season. Carmouche is hitting .313 at the plate while Henson holds a .286 batting average.

GSU fields two pitchers in the circle this season. Kailey Howard is 1-2 on the year with a 5.57 ERA while Angela Perez is also 1-2 on the year with a 5.88 ERA.

Déjà Vu vs. OSU: Creighton's win over Oregon State on Feb. 8, marked the Jays' second-straight victory over the Beavers by the same score (5-3) in the same tournament (Kajikawa Classic) at the same location (Tempe, Ariz.), three years apart. CU is now 2-2 against the Pac-12 foe and head coach Brent Vigness is 2-1 versus OSU.

Season-Opening Salvo: The Bluejays' season-opening win over New Mexico is Creighton's third-straight victory to begin a season following opening-day wins in 2011 and 2012.

CU's first-game win streak matches the longest in program history when the Jays previously won three consecutive openers from 2006-08 and 1998-2000. All three streaks were under the direction of current head coach Brent Vigness.

Creighton is 19-18 overall in season-opening contests including an 11-9 record under Vigness.

Baker Booms the Bat: CU's Amy Baker hit the game-winning three-run homer in the 5-3 win over Oregon State. The senior hit homers in back-to-back games including the Jays' first hit against then-No. 14 Florida on Feb. 8.

With the two homers Baker has 43 in her career just seven shy of tying the CU all-time record and nine short of MVC all-time mark. Playing in just half as many games as most Valley players, Baker still rates third in the MVC in home runs (2) and in slugging percentage (.813).

Telecky on Top against Oregon State: Brittany Telecky won her first start of the season in a 5-3 win over Oregon State. The junior pitched six innings against OSU allowing just three runs on eight hits. She also came in as a relief pitcher against San Diego State for two innings, allowing no hits or runs and just one walk. Telecky has yet to allow a hit with two outs on the board this season.

Changstrom Collects K's: Becca Changstrom's 11 strikeout performance against Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 9 stands as the best single-game outing by a Valley hurler two weeks into the season. Only one other Valley pitcher has recorded double-digit strikeouts in a game this season. Despite fewer innings pitched than most Valley hurlers, Changstrom's total of 26 strikeouts this season ranks sixth in the MVC. As a result, she leads the Valley at 9.93 strikeouts per game.

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