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The Bluejays host the Huskers in a midweek tilt Wednesday night.
Courtesy: Jason Wise Photography

Softball Hosts No. 22 Nebraska Wednesday Night

This Week:  Riding a four-game win streak that includes a three-game sweep of Northern Iowa last weekend, the Creighton softball team hosts No. 22 Nebraska in an intrastate rivalry game slated for 6 p.m. CT Wednesday at the CU Sports Complex.

The game is the first of a 2013 home-and-home series with the Huskers. The teams meet again at Nebraska in exactly three weeks.

Creighton (19-9) and Nebraska (25-7) split the season series a year ago. The Bluejays won the last meeting 2-1 in Omaha last April 25 when Amy Baker drove in a pair of runs, in the bottom of the sixth to give CU the win. Nebraska claimed the first meeting of 2012 in Lincoln with a 3-0 victory.

The game marks the first time that Creighton has hosted a ranked team since Nebraska visited Omaha as the No. 12 team in the nation on April 13, 2011. The Huskers came away with a 10-2 win on that day.

Later this week, the Bluejays continue a nine-game home stand against Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) foe Bradley in a battle for first place.

This week Creighton senior Amy Baker is seeking the outright MVC career home run record with her next round tripper. She also is chasing the Valley RBI record, matching it with three runs batted in.

Following the Jays: Live stats links for the game 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 Time Out: Creighton swept a three-game series from Northern Iowa last weekend at the CU Sports Complex. The Bluejays swept a Friday doubleheader by scores of 4-1 and 11-1, with the second game shortened to five innings. CU clinched the Saturday finale 4-2.

It marked the Bluejays' first MVC sweep since taking all three games of the Evansville series last season on April 21-22. It also marked the first sweep of UNI by any MVC team in almost two years, since April 16-17, 2011, when Drake swept the Panthers.

As a result, Creighton moved into first place in the Valley standings at 5-1, one-half game ahead of second-place Bradley. The Bluejays also started a nine-game home stand at 3-0 and began the year undefeated at home after the sweep.

Sophomore Liz Dike led the Bluejay offense last weekend with five versus Northern Iowa. In the series finale against reigning MVC Pitcher of the Year Jamie Fisher, Dike went 4-for-4 on the day just a home run shy of the cycle. She recorded a triple, double and pair of singles in the 4-2 victory.

Freshman Kelsey Allender hit the first home run at the CU Sports Complex of 2013, and her second career homer, last weekend with a grand slam in game two against Northern Iowa. Allender belted a pitch just over the 190 mark of the left field wall to cap a seven-run first inning against the Panthers.

Junior Becca Changstrom remained undefeated in MVC starts at 4-0 and improved to 13-4 overall this season after registering two complete-game wins against Northern Iowa last weekend. She gave up just three earned runs on nine hits through 14 innings in the circle resulting in a 1.50 ERA. Changstrom notched her seventh double-digit strikeout performance this season in Friday's opener with 11 K's.

Scouting Creighton (19-9): The Bluejays have won four straight games and eight of their last 10 heading into a midweek tilt with No. 22 Nebraska this week.

After a three-game sweep of Northern Iowa at home last weekend, Creighton moved into first place in the Valley standings at 5-1, one-half game ahead of second-place Bradley. The Bluejays also started a nine-game home stand at 3-0 and began the year undefeated at home after the sweep.

Senior Amy Baker currently is tied atop the MVC career home run list at 52 with Illinois State's Abby Olson (2008-2011). With 154 career runs batted in, Baker needs just three RBI this week to tie the Valley career RBI record of 157 held by Heather Stella of Illinois State (1996-99).  After posting a hit in the first two games and drawing a walk in the finale against UNI, Baker also extended her reached base streak to 26 consecutive contests.

Over the last five games, three Bluejays are averaging at least one hit per contest. Sophomore Liz Dike collected five hits last weekend against UNI including a 4-for-4 effort in the finale. Junior Ellen Homan hit three doubles against UNI and owns the Jays’ longest current hit streak of six games entering the week.  Classmate Blair Lowe leads the team with a .455 average in the last five contests with five hits.

Four Creighton players have started all 28 games and are hitting over .290 in 2013 including Baker (.407), Dike (.324), Lowe (.295) and Allender (.292). Creighton ranks sixth in the Valley with a .260 batting average. The Jays’ 28 home runs lead the MVC.

In the circle, CU junior pitchers Becca Changstrom and Alexis Cantu rank 1-2 atop the Valley ERA standings. Changstrom leads the MVC with a 1.39 ERA while Cantu boasts a 1.77 ERA. As a staff, the Jays lead the conference with a 2.00 ERA and 190 strikeouts.

Changstrom leads the Valley in ERA (1.39), strikeouts (141), opposing batting average (.180) and wins (13).

Scouting No. 22 Nebraska (25-7): Nebraska moved two spots to No. 22 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll on Tuesday after winning three of four contests last week.

The Cornhuskers took two out of three games last weekend at Illinois in Big Ten Play. Tatum Edwards started each game for NU in the circle. Nebraska won 6-2 in the series opener then fell 5-4 in game two. The Huskers claimed the series finale 7-1 over the Fighting Illini. Earlier in the week NU blanked Omaha 4-0 in Lincoln behind Emily Lockman in the circle.

Nebraska is 8-3 in true road games this season. The other two road losses for the Huskers this season include at then-No. 16 Arizona and at No. 1 Oklahoma. 

The Cornhuskers are one of two teams to defeat the top-ranked Sooners this season when NU split a doubleheader against OU on March 2 in Norman. Since that win over the Oklahoma, the Huskers are 13-2.

Five of the Huskers’ seven overall losses have come against ranked squads. The exceptions are the loss at Illinois last weekend and a 13-0 loss to North Dakota State in Lincoln on March 20.

At the plate NU is hitting .289 as a team. Four regular Husker starters are hitting .318 or better at the plate in 2013 including Brooke Thomason (.363), Taylor Edwards (.333), Alicia Armstrong (.321) and Dawna Tyson (.318).

Thomason leads the team with 37 hits and eight doubles. Edwards boasts eight homers and 34 RBI to go with a .667 slugging percentage to lead the Huskers.

In the circle, Emily Lockman leads Nebraska with a 1.38 ERA while registering 59 strikeouts and a 9-2 record. Meanwhile, Tatum Edwards carries a 1.69 ERA with a 16-5 mark and 110 K’s this year.

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 625-437-3 record in 19-plus seasons at Creighton and boasts a 773-508-4 overall record that includes 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.

Creighton-Nebraska Series: Nebraska leads the all-time series with Creighton 79-37 after each team won on its home field last season. The Bluejays beat the Huskers 2-1 at home in their last meeting after Nebraska claimed the first game of 2012 by a score of 3-0 in Lincoln.

Creighton has won eight of the last 17 meetings between the schools. The Bluejays have faced the Huskers more than any other team in school history. The teams first met in Omaha on April 26, 1978 with Nebraska winning 12-1 before Creighton edged the Huskers 6-5 in the nightcap of a doubleheader.

The teams have met at least twice each year since 1978 with the exception of the 1986 and 1987 seasons when the schools did not play on the diamond.

The teams’ first postseason meeting was at the 1982 Women’s College World Series when Nebraska edged Creighton 3-2 in eight innings. Since then Creighton is 2-4 against Nebraska in postseason meetings at the 1988, 2004 and 2007 NCAA Regionals hosted in Lincoln.

Creighton has won 21 of the 51 games of the series played in Omaha.

CU head coach Brent Vigness is 12-48 overall against Nebraska but has led the Jays to a virtual split with the Huskers since 2005 with an 8-9 mark versus NU.

Nebraska Natives: Creighton boasts eight Nebraska natives on its 2013 roster, including Lincoln natives Becca Changstrom and Liz Dike.

Three of CU’s eight players with 27 or more starts are from Nebraska, as is ace pitcher Changstrom.

In addition, CU assistant coaches Abby Johnson (Omaha) and Renae Sinkler (Lincoln) are also from the state.

The Cornhuskers have two players from the state on their active roster this year.

Creighton against Current NFCA Top-25 Squads: The Bluejays are 2-1 this season against teams currently ranked in the latest USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll released April 2. Nebraska is currently ranked No. 22 in the poll.

This week’s No. 3 Florida squad defeated Creighton 13-3 on February 8 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.  Later that same day the Bluejays toppled Oregon State, this week’s No. 24 squad, 5-3.

Creighton also owns a 4-3 win in eight innings over this week’s No. 20 team, Tulsa, at the UTA Maverick Invitational on March 2.

Bluejays’ NCAA Rankings this Week: Creighton ranks No. 35 in the country at 1.00 home runs per game in the latest NCAA weekly statistical rankings released March 31.

The Bluejays stand at No. 34 nationally with an earned run average of 2.00.  With 1.39 doubles per game, the team stands at No. 51 in the country. The Jays’ slugging percentage of .434 ranks No. 78 in the NCAA.

Individually, senior Amy Baker ranks among the nation’s top 20 in two categories. She ranks No. 12 in the country with a .901 slugging percentage this season and stands No. 17 nationally with a 0.39 home runs per game average.

Baker’s home run total of 11 is tied for No. 31 in the country this week.

Becca Changstrom’s five shutout victories this season ties for No. 17 nationally. The junior’s average of 8.9 strikeouts per seven innings stands at No. 25 in the NCAA rankings this week. With a 1.39 ERA, Changstrom rates No. 26 in the country.

Baker Writes Recipe for Record-Setting Success in 2013: Senior Amy Baker’s next home run will give the four-year starter the Missouri Valley Conference home run record outright with a total of 53.

Three weeks ago Baker belted career home run No. 52 to spark a come-from-behind victory at Evansville and tie the MVC career home run record held by Abby Olson of Illinois State since 2011.

MVC Career Home Runs

T1. 52 Amy Baker, CU (2010-pres.)

T1. 52 Abby Olson, ILS (2008-2011)

3. 50 Renae Sinkler, CU (2007-10)

4. 47 Amber Smith, ILS (2006-09)

Baker’s total of 11 homers this year already equals the tenth-best mark in program history for a single season.

Her career RBI total is now just three shy of the all-time MVC record of 157 held by Illinois State’s Heather Stella that has stood for over 13 seasons.

MVC Career RBI

1. 157 Heather Stella, ILS (1996-99)

2. 154 Amy Baker, CU (2010-pres.)

3. 150 Amber Smith, ILS (2006-09)

4. 146 Renae Sinkler, CU (2007-10)

5. 145 Jessica Huff, UE (1998-01)

6. 144 Abby Johnson, CU (2002-05)

In 2013, Baker has already set Creighton career marks in home runs (52) and runs batted in (154).

Baker Climbs to the Top of CU Career Record Books:  Earlier this month senior Amy Baker claimed the top spot in the all-time Creighton record books for home runs and runs batted in.

The senior’s career total of 52 homers surpassed the previous top mark of 50 set by current assistant coach Renae Sinkler in 2010. Baker has also tied the Missouri Valley Conference mark.

With 154 career runs batted in, Baker recently moved past both of her assistant coaches in the rankings Abby Johnson (144) and Sinkler (146) to claim the top spot.

Baker is also among the Creighton career top 10 for batting average, total bases and walks. The Omaha native’s .407 batting average this season would currently rank seventh all-time for a single-season mark in program history.

Baker leads the Valley in batting average, home runs (11), total bases (73) and slugging percentage (.901).

Give the Bluejays a Lead and You May Not Get it Back: Creighton is undefeated this season when leading after the first (7-0), third (9-0), fourth (12-0), fifth (10-0) and sixth (11-0) innings.

The Bluejays are also 9-1 when up after two innings. 

Creighton's Magic Numbers:

·      Creighton is undefeated at 15-0 this season when allowing opponents fewer than three runs.

·      The Bluejays are also 15-0 when scoring four or more runs on offense in 2013.

·      CU is 16-1 when scoring first this season

·      Creighton is 17-1 when posting more hits than its foes this year.

Walk It Off in Grand Style: Amy Baker’s walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning against Youngstown State on March 12 secured a 6-2 win and marked the 16th time a CU player hit a walk-off blast since 2001.

The slam also marked the third straight season with a walk-off home run. In 2012

Alexis Cantu’s three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning vs. Missouri State on May 6 beat the Bears, 5-4.

Cantu’s first career walk-off homer was the first by any Bluejay since Sammy Snygg posted one against Bradley on April 2, 2011.

Stacey Rybar is the last Bluejay with two walk-off homers in the same season (2002), and also the last Bluejay with a walk-off homer in the MVC Tournament (May 10, 2002 vs. UNI).

Here’s a list of Creighton’s walk-off home runs since 1999:

Inn. Player vs. Opponent Date

8 Amy Baker vs. Youngstown State 3/12/13

8 Alexis Cantu vs. Missouri State 5/6/12

8 Sammy Snygg vs. Bradley 4/2/11

10 Michelle Graner vs. Wichita State 5/3/09

7 Laura Kratochvil vs. Illinois State 3/21/09

6* Sara Loeffelholz vs. Saint Joseph’s 3/6/09

10 TJ Eadus vs. Northern Iowa 3/29/08

7 Bailey Dawson vs. Texas State 2/9/08

6* Michelle Graner vs. South Dakota State 3/22/07

9 Jessica Merkel vs. Nebraska 4/14/05

6* Lauren Flores vs. Bradley 4/9/05

7# Abby Johnson at Missouri State 3/15/03

7 Stacey Rybar vs. Northern Iowa 5/10/02

8# Stacey Rybar at Bradley 5/4/02

5* Nicole Garber vs. Drake 4/23/02

10 Kari Shank vs. Northern Iowa 4/8/01

*walk-off due to run-rule;

#CU hit as home team in away game

Homer Cooking: After not hitting a home run in the first two games of 2013, Creighton jacked at least one ball over the fence 10 consecutive contests before the streak was halted at UT Arlington for three games.

Since the UTA tournament in early March, Creighton has drilled a home run in 10 of its last 14 contests. The latest homer was freshman Kelsey Allender’s first career grand slam versus UNI on March 29. The slam was the Jays’ second of the year following Amy Baker’s walk-off grand slam against Youngstown State on March 12.

As a result, CU leads the Valley with 28 homers this season. The Bluejays rank No. 35 nationally with 1.08 home runs per game in the latest NCAA statistical rankings released March 31.

Six Bluejays have hit multiple home runs this season led by Amy Baker’s league-leading total of 11. Joining Baker with more than one homer in 2013 is sophomore Bri Lingl (6), freshman Blake Ringle (4), sophomore Liz Dike (2), junior Alexis Cantu (2) and Allender (2).

Allender hit her first career home run of an inside-the-park variety against Grambling State Feb. 24. Allender’s inside-the-park home run is the first since Dike scored two of them last season, the last against Wichita State on April 7, 2012.

Senior Sammy Snygg also rifled a shot over the wall versus then-No. 14 Florida in Creighton’s opening weekend.

Marching into Spring: Creighton finished the month of March with a 14-5 record this year. The Jays closed out the month on a four-game win streak and opened its home season with a three-game sweep of Northern Iowa to take over first place in the Valley.

Last season the Bluejays were finished 9-10 in the third month of 2012.

Changstrom Claims Two MVC Honors in One Week: Creighton softball junior Becca Changstrom earned MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week honors for the second time this season on March 20, following MVC Pitcher of the Week honors awarded two days earlier, after recording a 4-1 record and 47 strikeouts in five appearances last week.

The award marks Changstrom’s second career MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week honor. She also she claimed the honor March 6 after a solid weekend at the UT Arlington Maverick Invitational. Creighton players won just one scholar-athlete award in 2012.

On March 18, Changstrom earned recognition from the Valley as the MVC Pitcher of the Week for the third time in a month.

The junior right-hander notched an astonishing 47 strikeouts in five appearances over 30.2 innings of work to register a 4-1 record for Creighton during the week.

In four starts Changstrom hurled four complete games, including a pair of shutouts, leading to a 0.68 ERA. She also came on in relief against Youngstown State to secure an extra-inning win allowing no hits and one walk over two-plus innings while striking out three.

The Lincoln, Neb., native matched her career high of 13 K’s on March 15 in a conference-opening win at Evansville. She struck out 10 more Purple Aces in the series finale a day later.

This season Changstrom has notched 10 K's or more on six different occasions including each of her last three outings. The rest of the league’s pitchers own just four games total with 10 or more strikeouts. No other MVC pitcher can claim more than one such effort in 2013.

For the week, Changstrom allowed only three earned runs and gave up seven walks while holding opposing batters to a .148 average at the plate. She leads the Valley in ERA (1.37), strikeouts (125), opposing batting average (.180) and wins (11).

A chemistry major, Changstrom currently carries a 3.846 GPA.

Baker Caps Off Record-Setting Week with MVC Player of the Week Honors: Creighton senior Amy Baker collected MVC Player of the Week honors on March 18 after a record-setting week.

Baker's award is her first of the season and seventh of her career after capturing a pair of weekly honors in each of the past three seasons.

The Omaha native capped off a record-setting week by blasting career home run No. 52 to spark a come-from-behind victory at Evansville Saturday and tie the MVC career home run record.

Earlier in the week Baker set Creighton career marks in home runs (52) and runs batted in (151). One of those home runs was a walk-off grand slam against Youngstown State on March 12 to secure a 6-2 Bluejay victory in extra innings.

Her career RBI total is currently six shy of the all-time MVC record of 157 that has stood for over 13 seasons. Baker helped CU win its MVC opening series and post a 5-2 record during the week while starting each contest.

Baker hit .429 in those games with eight extra-base hits including five home runs, 10 RBI and an amazing slugging percentage of 1.286. The senior leads the Valley in home runs (11), RBI (26), total bases (71) and slugging percentage (.959). She ranks second in the league in batting average (.419), hits (31) and on-base percentage (.494).

Evansville Series Recap: Creighton senior Amy Baker capped off a record-setting week by blasting career home run No. 52 to spark a come-from-behind victory at Evansville Saturday and tie the MVC career home run record.

CU junior Becca Changstrom matched her career high of 13 K's on Friday night in a conference-opening win at Evansville. She struck out 10 Purple Aces in the series finale a day later.

The Bluejays opened the MVC season at 2-1 on the road for the third consecutive season. Creighton also went 2-1 at Evansville to begin the 2011 conference slate before the Jays earned a 2-1 split at Bradley last season.

Rebel Spring Games Recap: The Bluejays went 6-2 at the 2013 Rebel Spring Games March 9-13. The wins increased Creighton’s all-time record at the tourney to 49-9 (.845) in six appearances at the Florida tourney all under current head coach Brent Vigness.

The Bluejays shut out five opponents (Saint Francis (PA), North Dakota, Butler, Fairleigh Dickinson and Army) over the four-day span. The exception was a 6-2 victory over Youngstown State in eight innings after a walk-off grand slam from senior Amy Baker.

One CU loss was a no-hit 5-0 defeat at the hands of Eastern Illinois on March 10. Three days later Creighton dropped a 3-1 decision to Robert Morris.

UTA Maverick Invitational Recap: The Bluejays went 3-2 at the UTA Maverick Invitational in Arlington, Texas, to improve to 8-6 this season. After a pair of wins over host UTA and Lamar on March 1, CU upset then No. 21 Tulsa 4-3 in extra innings on March 2 for its first win over a ranked team since February 2010.

The Bluejays' bats struggled in the final two games of the tourney resulting in losses to Lamar and the host Mavericks. The losses snapped a five-game win streak for the Jays.

Fantastic February Finishes: Creighton finished the month of February with a 5-4 record. It marks the seventh straight season that head coach Brent Vigness has directed the Bluejays to a winning record in the first month of the season.

The Bluejays are 46-24 in February spanning those seven seasons to the beginning of 2007. CU’s 5-4 mark this season is the same record the Jays had in 2010 – the year of the program’s last NCAA Tournament appearance.

Central Arkansas Tournament Recap: The Bluejays went 3-1 at the Central Arkansas Tournament in Conway, Ark., to improve to 5-4 this season. CU’s only loss was to host UCA in its first true road game this season. Creighton outscored opponents 35-16 last weekend. The Bluejays hit .353 as a team over the four games while holding opponents to a .271 average.

The Bluejays are 8-1 all-time at tournaments hosted by Central Arkansas. Creighton went undefeated in five games at the UCA Spring Clash to open the 2007 campaign. The Jays are now 2-1 all-time against UCA with two wins in the 2007 tourney.

Kajikawa Classic Recap: Creighton opened 2013 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.

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.

Telecky on Top against Oregon State: Brittany Telecky won her first start of the season in a 5-3 victory over Oregon State. The junior pitched 6 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.

Season-Opening Salvo: The Bluejays’ season-opening win over New Mexico was 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 head coach Brent Vigness.

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 Missouri Valley Conference (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.

Recapping 2012:  The Bluejays return 11 players from last season's team that compiled a 28-25-1 overall record and finished fifth in the 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.

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