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Creighton plays at home for the first time in 2013 this weekend.
Courtesy: Eric Francis

Softball Hosts Northern Iowa this Weekend

This Week:  After playing its first 25 games away from home, the Creighton softball team hosts Northern Iowa for a three-game Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) series beginning at noon Friday at the CU Sports Complex.

The series was originally scheduled for Northern Iowa’s Robinson Dresser Field in Cedar Falls. But due to field conditions at UNI the teams agreed to move the teams’ three-game series slated for this weekend to Omaha.

As a result, Creighton (16-9, 2-1 MVC) will play its first series of 2013 on its home field but as the designated away team in all three contests. The Bluejays and Panthers start the series with a Friday doubleheader at noon. The teams conclude the three-game set with a single game at noon on Saturday.

Northern Iowa (13-16, 3-1 MVC) moved its series to Southern Illinois last weekend and swept a pair of one-run games from the Salukis in a Saturday doubleheader before the series finale was cancelled. UNI claimed game one in 11 innings 4-3 and beat SIU 2-1 in game two on Saturday.

This weekend 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 six runs batted in.

Following the Jays: Live stats links for this week 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: The Bluejays have not played a game since March 16 as inclement weather caused the postponement or cancellation of seven contests including a doubleheader at No. 7 Missouri earlier this week. Creighton’s home-opening series against Illinois State last weekend was rescheduled as a doubleheader on April 22 and the Jays’ road doubleheader at South Dakota was also postponed last week.

Creighton last took the field almost two weeks ago at Evansville, claiming a 6-4 win over the Purple Aces to earn a series win after splitting a doubleheader with UE the night before.

Scouting Creighton (16-9, 2-1 MVC): The Bluejays have not played since March 16 when they claimed a 6-4 win at Evansville to win their conference-opening series with UE.

Senior Amy Baker and junior Becca Changstrom swept the MVC weekly honors on March 18 after record-setting performances to help lift Creighton to a 5-2 record at the Rebel Spring Games in Florida and at Evansville.

Baker claimed MVC Player of the Week honors while Changstrom earned MVC Pitcher of the Week accolades. The weekly awards pushed the Bluejays' total to four this season.

Baker capped off a record-setting week by blasting career home run No. 52 to spark a come-from-behind victory in the final game at Evansville and tie the MVC career home run record.

Earlier in the week the Omaha native 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 while starting each contest.

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

Changstrom earned recognition from the Valley for the third time in four weeks this season. It marks the fifth career MVC Pitcher of the Week accolade for Changstrom.

Changstrom 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 owns 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. The junior leads the Valley in ERA (1.37), strikeouts (125), opposing batting average (.180) and wins (11).

Three Creighton players have started all 25 games and are hitting over .290 in 2013 including Baker (.419), sophomore Liz Dike (.306) and Blair Lowe (.292).

Creighton ranks sixth in the Valley with a .259 batting average. The Jays’ 27 home runs and .439 slugging percentage lead the MVC. In the circle, the Jays lead the conference with a 2.06 ERA and 172 strikeouts.

Scouting Northern Iowa (13-16, 3-1 MVC): Northern Iowa comes into the weekend on a two-game win streak after defeating Southern Illinois last weekend in an MVC doubleheader at SIU. Like this weekend, the Panthers were supposed to host the Salukis but weather forced UNI to travel.

UNI swept a pair of one-run contests in Carbondale. The Panthers won a 4-3 marathon in 11 innings in game one before taking the nightcap 2-1 over the Salukis. The third game of the series was canceled.

Northern Iowa opened MVC play on the road at Missouri State where they split a doubleheader with the Bears. UNI won another 4-3 decision, this time in nine innings over MSU, in game one. The Bears claimed game two 8-2 over the Panthers.

The Panthers are 1-7 in true road games this year. If you add in the two wins at SIU where UNI was the designated home team the Panthers are 3-7. UNI is also 8-6 in neutral site games to account for an 11-13 record away from Cedar Falls.

Northern Iowa was picked third in the preseason coaches’ poll this year, just two points ahead of Creighton. The Panthers captured the 2012 MVC regular-season title with a 21-5 record in league play.

Reigning MVC Pitcher of the Year Jamie Fisher leads UNI again this season. Fisher finished 20-4 last year and earned First Team All-MVC honors after posting a 1.33 ERA to rank first in the conference.

In 2013 Fisher is 10-8 overall with a 2.36 ERA in the circle. She boasts 18 starts that include 15 complete games this season. UNI’s other three pitchers on the staff each have at least three starts this season. Ellie Doughty is second on the staff with a 4.05 ERA and a 2-4 record.

At the plate UNI is hitting .237 as a team. Four regular Panther starters are hitting .290 or better at the plate in 2013 including Kristin Lock (.313), Caitlin Wnek (.300), Nicole Fisher (.292) and Micalla Rettinger (.290).

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 622-437-3 record in 19-plus seasons at Creighton and boasts a 770-508-4 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.

Creighton-Northern Iowa Series: Creighton leads the all-time series with UNI 50-17. The Panthers swept a doubleheader in Omaha in 2012 to win the season series for the first time in 12 seasons.

Last season UNI edged CU 5-4 on April 14 in a game halted by lightning and resumed the following day. The Panthers later claimed the second game 15-3.

With the victories in 2012, Northern Iowa has claimed the last three games in the series, matching its longest win streak against Creighton. UNI also won three straight contests from 1996 through 1998.

Creighton won the first 14 games in the series that began April 11, 1984. Twelve of those wins came prior to Northern Iowa’s entrance into the MVC. UNI captured its first win in the series on April 12, 1994 with a 5-3 decision. More recently Creighton claimed 12 straight contests from 2007 through 2010.

Battle in the Top of the Valley Standings: Entering the weekend, Creighton and Northern Iowa are tied in the loss column at one and trail an undefeated Drake squad atop the conference standings.

As a result, the winner of the series will claim second-place outright and may have a chance at moving to the top of the conference standings depending on Drake’s results in a series at Missouri State this weekend.

Home Opener History: This weekend’s series versus UNI serves as the Bluejays home opener, despite CU being designated as the away team in each game after the series was moved from Cedar Falls earlier this week.

The Bluejays’ scheduled home opener against Illinois State slated for last weekend was postponed due to inclement weather. The Redbirds will visit Omaha for a doubleheader on April 22. Last season’s scheduled home opener against Iowa State was rained out.

Creighton has won six consecutive home openers. The Bluejays are 7-1 in their last eight home openers. CU has swept home-opening doubleheaders in each of the previous three seasons, topping South Dakota last season after sweeping Bradley in 2011 and Indiana State in 2010.

CU was 11-5 at home last year, its best record at the CU Sports Complex since 2008.

Schedule Changes: Heading into this weekend, the last seven games on the CU schedule were either postponed or cancelled due to inclement weather. The Bluejays last played on March 16 at Evansville, claiming a series-winning 6-4 victory.

Creighton had five games postponed or cancelled last week due to inclement weather. A road doubleheader at South Dakota slated for March 20 was postponed with a make-up date yet to be determined.

The Jays’ home-opening series against Illinois State scheduled for last weekend was also altered. The Bluejays will now host the Redbirds for a doubleheader on April 22 beginning at noon CT at the CU Sports Complex. The third game of the Illinois State series was not rescheduled.

As a result of the new doubleheader date, the single game between Creighton and Drake slated for 6 p.m. April 23 in Des Moines was pushed back one week to April 30 when the Bluejays will visit the Bulldogs at 6 p.m.

More recently Creighton’s doubleheader originally slated for March 26 at No. 7 Missouri was cancelled. 

Old Man Winter Causes Cancellation of MVC Home Opener: With the cancellation of one of the scheduled Illinois State games from last weekend, it marks the eighth straight season that weather has caused Creighton to miss at least one Valley contest. The last time the Bluejays played a complete league schedule was in 2005.

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.

Two 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)

Her career RBI total is now just six 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. 151 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 (151).

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 tied the Missouri Valley Conference mark.

With 151 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 .419 batting average this season would currently rank third all-time for a single-season mark in program history.

Baker leads the Valley in batting average, home runs (11), total bases (71) and slugging percentage (.959).

Give the Bluejays a Lead and You May Not Get it Back: Creighton is undefeated this season when leading after the first (6-0), third (7-0), fourth (10-0), fifth (9-0) and sixth (10-0) innings.

The Bluejays are also 7-1 when up after two innings. 

Creighton's Magic Numbers:

·      Creighton is undefeated at 12-0 this season when allowing opponents fewer than three runs.

·      The Bluejays are also 12-0 when scoring four or more runs on offense in 2013.

·      CU is 13-1 when scoring first this season

·      Creighton is 14-1 when posting more hits than its foes this year.

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).

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 last week at UT Arlington for three games.

Since the UTA tournament in early March, Creighton has drilled a home run in nine of its last 10 contests, including each of the last seven.

As a result, CU leads the Valley with 27 homers this season. The Bluejays rank No. 26 nationally with 1.08 home runs per game in the latest NCAA statistical rankings released March 24.

Five 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) and junior Alexis Cantu (2).

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

Freshman Kelsey 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.

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 March 26.

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. 23 squad, 5-3.

Creighton also owns a 4-3 win in eight innings over this week’s No. 19 team, Tulsa, at the UTA Maverick Invitational on March 2.

Creighton NCAA Rankings this Week: Creighton ranks No. 26 in the country at 1.08 home runs per game in the latest NCAA weekly statistical rankings released March 24.

The Bluejays stand at No. 41 nationally with an earned run average of 2.06.  The team’s slugging percentage of .436 ranks No. 76 in the NCAA.

Individually, senior Amy Baker ranks among the nation’s top 10 in two categories. She ranks No. 8 in the country with a .959 slugging percentage this season and stands No. 9 nationally with a 0.44 home runs per game average.

Baker’s home run total of 11 is tied for No. 16 in the country this week.

Junior Becca Changstrom’s five shutout victories this season is tied for No. 13 nationally. Her 9.0 strikeouts per seven inning average stands at No. 24 in the NCAA rankings this week.

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.

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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