Softball Begins Tournament at UT Arlington Friday

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Courtesy: Doug DeVoe/Missouri Valley Conference

This Week:  Creighton softball travels to an early-season tournament hosted by UT Arlington this weekend in suburban Dallas. The Bluejays are scheduled to play five games this weekend beginning Friday. Creighton (5-4) opens against the host Mavericks at 3 p.m. CT followed by a game against Lamar later in the day at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, CU faces No. 21 Tulsa at 11 a.m. to complete the round-robin portion of the tournament. All four teams are then seeded to set up semifinal contests on Saturday at 3 or 5 p.m.  The Jays conclude the tourney Sunday in the final round with a game beginning either at 10 a.m. or noon.

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

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.

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 611-432-3 record in 19-plus seasons at Creighton and boasts a 759-503-4 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: Last weekend 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.

Scouting Creighton (5-4): The Bluejays posted a 3-1 ledger in four games at the Central Arkansas Tournament last weekend to extend their streak of consecutive months of February with winning records to seven.

Creighton started with a convincing 7-1 win over Mid-American Conference preseason favorite Ball State Feb. 22. Later in the evening, the Bluejays ran into an offensive machine in host UCA who dealt CU a 13-2 loss in five innings. UCA went 6-0 to win in the tourney to claim the tournament title over Creighton, BSU, Northern Iowa, UAPB and Grambling State.

The Jays finished with a pair of dominating wins over Southwestern Athletic Conference teams to conclude the tourney. Creighton pummeled Arkansas-Pine Bluff 16-2 in five frames Feb. 23.

Junior pitcher Becca Changstrom and the Creighton defense fell one out shy of a no-hitter in a 10-0 blanking of Grambling State. Changstrom totaled seven strikeouts in a complete game one-hitter following an infield single in the Lady Tigers' penultimate at-bat. As a result, Changstrom claimed Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Pitcher of the Week honors the league announced Monday.

Senior Amy Baker was a top candidate for MVC Player of the Week after leading the team last weekend hitting .727 (8-for-11). She strung together three games with a home run to open the UCA Tourney to push her season total to five homers. She increased her career total to 46. She is now just four shy of tying the CU all-time record and six short of the MVC all-time mark.

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.

Five Creighton players have started all nine games and are hitting over .300 in 2013 including Baker (.519), Kelsey Allender (.480), Blair Lowe (.357), Ellen Homan (.321) and Alexis Cantu (.318).

Three weeks into the season, Creighton ranks third in the Valley with a .303 batting average. The Jays' .483 slugging percentage leads the MVC. CU's nine homers this year rates second in the conference. The Jays' average of one homer per game tops the league. In the circle, the Jays stand fourth among Valley teams with a 3.50 ERA.

Individually, Baker is hitting .519 this season and Allender boasts a .480 average at the plate to rank second and third in the MVC, respectively. Baker's slugging percentage of 1.148 leads the conference and her five homers stand second in the Valley.

Changstrom is fourth in the league with a 2.31 ERA.  Her 9.46 strikeouts per game average tops the Valley by over two.

UTA Tournament Facts: The Bluejays are 4-7 all-time at tournaments hosted by UTA. CU went 2-4 in head coach Brent Vigness' first year as skipper in 1994. Two seasons ago the Jays posted a 2-3 record, splitting with UTA and dropping a pair to Tulsa.

Creighton boasts a 25-9 all-time record against its foes this weekend: UTA (13-3) and Tulsa (12-6). This weekend marks the first meeting on the diamond between Creighton and Lamar. The Cardinals are in their first season of a revitalized program since 1987.

Scouting the Opponents:

UT Arlington (6-4): UTA is coming off of a 2-3 weekend at the Texas Shootout hosted by fellow WAC member Texas State in San Marcos, Texas last weekend.  The Mavericks beat Southland Conference favorite Sam Houston State and TSU in one-run victories. UTA dropped games to Baylor, Texas Tech and North Texas.

The Mavericks started the season with a 4-1 record at the UCF Holiday Inn Select Tournament, toppling South Carolina 9-6 in the finale. This weekend will be UTA's first home games under first-year head coach Kristie Fox.

UT Arlington finished 2012 at 15-27. The Mavericks are also in their first season as a full member of the Western Athletic Conference.

UTA senior pitcher Teri Lyles and sophomore infielder Nina Villanueva were named to the All-WAC Preseason Team. UT Arlington was picked seventh in the WAC preseason by the league's coaches.

Meagan Michele tops the Mavericks with a .462 average through 10 games this season. She leads the team with a dozen hits, six RBI and the only pair of home runs for the team this year. Lyles is 5-1 this season in the circle with a 1.36 ERA allowing just six earned runs in 39.2 innings pitched.

Creighton's 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, junior Alexis Cantu, played her freshman season at UT Arlington.

The Bluejays are 13-3 all-time against UT Arlington, including a 4-2 record in true road games. The last three games between the teams in Arlington have been decided by one run. CU is 2-1 in those contests. In 2011, Creighton won a 3-2 decision after dropping a 2-1 contest in eight innings. In 1994 Creighton claimed a 1-0 victory in 10 innings. CU head coach Brent Vigness is 3-1 against UTA including an 8-5 neutral site win in 2004.

Lamar (5-7): In its first year of softball since 1987, Lamar has already posted five wins in a dozen contests in 2013. Last weekend the Lady Cardinals swept a pair of games from Utah State at the Texas Invitational hosted by Texas in Austin. LU dropped a pair of contest to then-No. 6 Texas and lost 11-3 to then-No. 24 Tulsa.

Lamar started the year with a pair of home wins over UTSA in Beaumont. The Lady Cardinals are 2-3 in neutral site games this season. LU plays a full Southland Conference schedule this season and is eligible for postseason competition.

Lamar was chosen to finish tenth in the 10-team Southland. Creighton is 0-2 against Southland teams this season, falling Stephen F. Austin and Central Arkansas early in the year.

Candyce Carter leads the Lamar offense with a .414 average through a dozen games. She boasts 12 hits and four extra-base efforts including three doubles and a home run. In the circle Shannon Millman is 3-2 with a 4.08 ERA to lead the Lady Cardinals this year.

No. 21 Tulsa (11-4): The Golden Hurricane is ranked for the second straight week in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll, moving up three spots to No. 21 this week.  At the Texas Invitational in Austin last weekend, Tulsa came away with a 4-1 record.

The Golden Hurricane upset then-No. 6 Texas 7-4 to give the Longhorns their first loss of the season. Tulsa almost did it again on the final day of the tourney, keeping Texas off the scoreboard through seven innings before falling 1-0 in eight frames.

Tulsa boasts several wins this season against fellow 2012 NCAA Tournament teams including a pair of true road wins at Florida State. Wins over North Carolina and Hofstra as well as splits against Arkansas and Texas dot the Golden Hurricane schedule in 2013.

Five Tulsa players have started 12 or more contests and are hitting over .300 at the plate this season. Jill Barrett leads the Golden Hurricane with a .408 average and 20 hits. Haley Henshaw is batting .326 at the dish and leads Tulsa with 16 RBI and is tied for the team lead with a pair of homers.  Samantha Cobb shares the homer lead with Henshaw and leads the squad with a. 543 slugging percentage this year. Tulsa is hitting .264 as a team this season.

Tulsa rotates two pitchers in the circle this season. Lacey Middlebrooks is 5-1 this season with a 0.53 ERA. Fellow hurler Aimee Creger is 6-1 this season with a 1.22 ERA.  As a team Tulsa carries a 2.03 ERA.

The Bluejays are 12-6 all-time against Tulsa, including a 6-2 record in neutral site games. Tulsa and Creighton have met four times in Arlington, the Jays are 2-2 in those contests. CU won a pair of games in 1994 but Tulsa swept two contests in 2011 at UTA. The teams have played six times since 2006 with Tulsa holding a 5-1 advantage in those meetings by winning the last three.

Head coach Brent Vigness is 9-6 against the Golden Hurricane. In the early 1990's both schools were members of the MVC. Creighton holds a 6-1 mark in games under the Valley umbrella, including a 4-0 home record spanning 1993-96.

Changstrom Collects MVC Pitcher of the Week Honors: Junior Becca Changstrom claimed MVC Pitcher of the Week honors Feb. 25 after a pair of impressive wins at the Central Arkansas Tournament last weekend.

It marks the third career MVC Pitcher of the Week accolade for Changstrom after claiming one conference weekly honor in each of the past two seasons. The weekly award is the first of the season by a Bluejay in 2013. Creighton players won a total four weekly honors in 2012.

Changstrom shined last weekend at the UCA Tournament with a pair of complete-game wins to improve to 3-2 this season. She recorded a 0.58 ERA that included a one-hitter Feb. 24 against Grambling State.

The Lincoln, Neb., native and the Bluejay defense fell one out shy of a no-hitter against GSU on Sunday. Changstrom totaled seven strikeouts in the complete game one-hitter following an infield single in the Lady Tigers' penultimate at-bat.

On Feb. 22 Changstrom silenced the Ball State offense with eight K's in a 7-1 victory to open the tourney. The junior right-hander allowed just one run and struck out 15 through 12 innings of work in the circle against the Cardinals and Lady Tigers.

Changstrom held opposing batters to a .182 average at the dish and allowed only three walks on the weekend. She currently leads the Valley at 9.46 strikeouts per game.

Baker is Sizzling at the Dish: Senior Amy Baker posted an extraordinary performance at the plate last weekend at the Central Arkansas Tournament.

The senior led the team last weekend by hitting .727 (8-for-11). She connected on multiple hits in each game with four extra-base efforts that included three home runs and a double.

Baker's trio of homers came in three consecutive games to start the weekend to move her to within four of the Creighton career home run mark. She also led the Bluejays in RBI (6), total bases (18), on-base percentage (.769) and an amazing slugging percentage of 1.636.

On defense she started all four games splitting time at first base and catcher. Baker was second on the team with 20 putouts while posting a .955 fielding percentage.

Baker leads the Valley in slugging percentage, homers per game and stopping opponent stolen base attempts.

The Omaha native's three-game homer streak last weekend increased her career home run total to 46. She is now just four shy of tying the CU all-time record and six short of the MVC all-time mark.

Individually, Baker is hitting .519 this season to rank second in the MVC. Her slugging percentage of 1.148 leads the conference and her five homers stand second in the Valley.

Homer Cooking: After not hitting a home run in the first two games of 2013, Creighton has jacked at least one ball over the fence in each of the last seven contests, including a pair of two-homer efforts. As a result, CU is averaging one home run per game through nine contests this season to lead the Valley.

Senior Amy Baker cranked three round trippers last weekend to move her season total to five. Additionally, two more Bluejays blasted their first homers of the year at UCA. Sophomore Bri Lingl cranked her first home run of the season against UAPB Feb. 23. Freshman Kelsey Allender hit her first career home run with an inside-the-park variety against Grambling State Feb. 24.

In the opening weekend, Baker hammered two home runs with one apiece against then-No. 14 Florida and Oregon State. Senior Sammy Snygg also rifled a shot over the wall versus Florida. Junior Alexis Cantu capped off the first week with a solo home run against Stephen F. Austin.

Allender's inside-the-park home run is the first since sophomore Liz Dike scored two of them last season, the last against Wichita State on April 7.

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.

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 win 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 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 head coach Brent Vigness.

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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