OMAHA, Neb. – It took almost six hours, but the Creighton softball team eventually swept BIG EAST foe Villanova 1-0 and 6-4 in 16 innings in a doubleheader capped by senior Alexis Cantu’s walk-off home run and impressive senior leadership from the Bluejays at the CU Sports Complex on Saturday.
Creighton (21-14, 4-3 BIG EAST) saw its senior class come through in the clutch all day. In addition to Cantu’s game-winning, two-run bomb down the right field line to claim marathon game two, seniors Ellen Homan and Blair Lowe hit back-to-back RBI doubles to put CU ahead 4-2 providing all of the RBI in the nightcap. Earlier in game one, Lowe’s solo home run down the right field line provided the difference in the Jays’ 1-0 victory. Cantu, Lowe and Homan combined for nine of the Jays’ 16 hits on Saturday. Junior Bri Lingl added four of her own on offense.
In the circle, senior Becca Changstrom claimed two wins on the day. She held Villanova (10-21, 0-5 BIG EAST) to four hits in game one for a complete-game shutout while striking out 10 Wildcats. In game two, Changstrom came in as the Jays’ third hurler but pitched 10 innings, yielding just six hits and striking out a career-high 16 more VU batters to total 26 in the twin bill. Changstrom finished the twin bill with a 0.00 ERA and gave up just one walk through 17.1 innings of work.
CANTU'S WALK-OFF HOME RUN
The 16-inning game two marathon was the longest Creighton softball game length in innings since head coach Brent Vigness’ first year as coach in 1994 when the Bluejays fell 7-4 at Iowa State in Ames on April 6, also in 16 innings. Those games rank in a tie for fourth all-time in CU history. The Jays dropped a 3-2 contest at Kansas on April, 26, 1989 in 19 frames.
Atop the CU record books is the NCAA-record setting Western Athletic Conference Tournament game between Creighton and Utah held in Omaha on May 11, 1991 that lasted 31 innings before the Jays claimed a 1-0 victory. That game still remains the longest in NCAA softball history for at-bats (114), innings (31) and in time elapsed.
At No. 2 all-time for CU and NCAA is the WAC Championship game played between the Utes and Jays the following day on May 12, 1991 that lasted 25 innings before Utah edged Creighton 4-3.
Changstrom earned the start in game one.
In a quick, errorless contest to begin the day, Lowe’s solo home run in the bottom of the third frame provided the game-winning margin for the Jays to snap a four-game losing streak. It marked Lowe’s first home run of the year.
Changstrom improved to 12-8 with the victory.
Cantu opened in the circle for game two for the Bluejays.
Villanova jumped out quickly to a 2-0 lead against Cantu and the Jays in the top of the first after a walk, two singles and a sacrifice. Another VU threat to begin the second frame moved Cantu to right field as junior Mac Millspaugh took over in the circle.
Millspaugh held VU in check over the next four innings, giving up just two hits and two unearned runs until Changstrom came on to complete the game.
The Jays exploded for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. Lingl ripped a one-out single to begin the rally as sophomore Erin McGonigal came on to run. A single by sophomore Blake Ringle put two on as freshman Jessica Lewis came into run at first. A single by sophomore Kelsey Allender loaded the bases and a VU pitching change.
A three-RBI double by Homan cleared the bases to put the Jays up 3-2 in the contest. Sophomore Katie Pascuzzi came on to run at second. After another VU pitching switch, Lowe then stepped in with another RBI double to give CU a 4-2 edge.
The Wildcats answered in the top of the sixth frame with a pair of runs to knot the score at 4-4. A CU error, wild pitch and a pair of singles provided the scoring for Villanova.
That score would remain through nine complete scoreless innings as game one starting pitchers Changstrom and Kate Poppe performed famously in the circle.
Lowe almost became the hero again in game two as she launched a long ball to left field that bounced off the top of the wall and was kept in play in the bottom of the 12th frame. CU could not bring in the run and the game continued.
Creighton finally broke through in the bottom of the 16th inning. After two outs, junior Liz Dike reached on an error to set up Cantu’s heroics from the plate. Her homer yielded the Jays’ long-awaited 6-4 victory.
The Bluejays and Wildcats conclude their first BIG EAST Conference series with game three slated for 11:00 a.m. CT Sunday at the CU Sports Complex.