Softball Hosts Wichita State This Weekend

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Brittnie Kreiser
Courtesy: Jason Wise Photography
Creighton hosts Wichita State
Saturday, April 16 • Creighton Sports Complex • Noon (DH)
Sunday, April 17 • Creighton Sports Complex • Noon

This Week:  Creighton started its longest home stand of the season with three mid-week games.  The Bluejays swept a doubleheader from North Dakota on Tuesday, winning 6-3 and 9-1.  The Jays homered four times in the twin bill, including three homers in the run-rule game-two victory.  No. 12 Nebraska then run-ruled the Bluejays for the first time since 1997, winning 10-2 on Wednesday night.  The Bluejays now host Wichita State in a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series this weekend, starting with a doubleheader at noon on Saturday, and wrapping up with a noon game on Sunday.

Last Week:  The Bluejays won their third straight MVC series, taking two of three games at Missouri State last weekend. The Jays won the opener 4-1, before losing 3-2 on a squeeze play in the bottom of the seventh in game two.  In the series finale, the Jays scored two runs in their final at bat – including a game-winning squeeze play of their own – to win 4-3 and take the series.

Scouting Creighton (18-18, 6-3 MVC): Creighton, which has appeared in six of the last eight NCAA Tournaments and is the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion, has been picked to finish sixth in this year’s MVC race ... The Bluejays return just three starters from last year’s 37-23 team, while they have 11 freshmen and 10 returners on the roster ... The Bluejays, who set a school record with 66 home runs last year, have 26 homers in their last 19 games ... The Jays are hitting .301 in their last 18 games, after hitting .228 in their first 18 games ... The Jays are hitting .331 with 10 home runs and 32 runs scored in six home games this spring ... Catcher Amy Baker has hit 14 of her MVC-leading 15 home runs in Creighton’s last 18 games and the sophomore is already tied for fourth in school history with 30 career homers ... Baker leads the MVC with a .728 slugging percentage and is second with 28 RBI ... Junior Christa Ruf entered the season with one home run and 14 RBI in 86 career games, but has hit eight home runs with 26 RBI this spring ... Freshmen Ellen Homan is the top-hitting freshman in the MVC, batting .426 in her last 18 games to raise her mark to a team-leading .349 on the season ... Liz McKewon is tied for the MVC-lead and ranks eighth in the NCAA with 11 sacrifice bunts this season ... CU ranks second in the MVC with a .965 fielding percentage ... In their last 18 games, the Bluejays have posted a 2.92 ERA and opponents are hitting just .234 against them ... Freshman Becca Changstrom has emerged as the staff ace, leading the MVC with an opponents average of just .162, while she tops the team with a 12-7 record, 119.1 innings pitched and 116 strikeouts.

Scouting Wichita State (10-28, 3-8 MVC): The Shockers are 4-16 in their last 20 games, but did hand Drake its only MVC loss of the season and they own a win over Illinois State ... WSU is hitting .256 as a team, including a league-worst .207 in conference play, while opponents are hitting .309 against the Shockers this spring ... WSU has hit 10 of their 24 home runs on the season inside of MVC play, but have scored 33 runs in 11 Valley games ... WSU has made a league-worst 67 errors and ranks last in the MVC with a .936 fielding percentage ... Hayley Temple leads the team with a .325 average, 38 hits and 10 doubles.  Heather Gerritse and Jamie Hull are each hitting .324.  Hull is tied for the team-lead with 10 doubles and tops the team with 22 runs scored and 19 RBI ... Kiersten Dixon (.231) leads the team with five home runs and seven stolen bases ... Katie Armagost (4-10, 4.13 ERA, 32 K), Sloan Anderson (2-6, 4.57 ERA, 63 K) and Brianna Smet (3-11, 6.32 ERA, 64 K) split pitching duties.

Head Coach: Head coach Brent Vigness (Central College, 1988) is in his 18th season at Creighton.  With a record of 571-393-2 at Creighton, he is the winningest coach in Bluejay athletics history.  Vigness also served as head coach at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., for five years prior to coming to Creighton.  His career record in 23 years as a head coach is 719-464-3.  The most tenured softball coach in school history has led the Jays to six MVC Tournament titles (1999, 2003-05, 2007, 2010), six regular-season MVC crowns (1998-2000, 2007-09), seven NCAA Tournament appearances (1999, 2003-05, 2007-08, 2010) and was named MVC Coach of the Year in 1998 and guided the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

CU-WSU Series: Creighton leads the all-time series with Wichita State 43-24 ... The Jays won all four meetings with the Shockers last year, ending WSU’s season with a 5-4 eight-inning win in the MVC Tournament ... CU out-scored WSU 25-7 in the regular-season sweep in Wichita, scoring at least five games in all four meetings with the Shockers last year ... The last time these teams played in Omaha, the Jays won two of three, including a 3-1, 10-inning, walk-off win on a home run by Michelle Graner to end the regular-season in 2009 ... Creighton is 12-4 in its last 16 games against the Shockers.

Against the Best: Creighton is 0-5 against top-25 teams this spring, losing twice to Nebraska, twice to Arizona State and once to Arizona, while both Pac-10 teams were ranked in the top-10.  The Bluejays have at least one top-25 win in each of the past six seasons.  The last time Creighton did not have a win against a nationally-ranked team was 2004, when the Jays went 0-4 against the top-25 – all four losses against nationally-ranked Nebraska.  Since 2005, the Bluejays are now 16-28-1 (.367) against top-25 teams.  CU’s last victory over a ranked opponent was a 2-1 win on Feb. 14, 2010 against No. 15 Northwestern in Tempe, Ariz.

He’s a Winner:  Head coach Brent Vigness captured win No. 565 as Creighton’s leader on March 31 at Iowa State, a 9-3 win in Ames - just 30 miles from where he attended high school in Zearing, Iowa.  The win moved him past Creighton Athletics Hall of Famer Mary Higgins for not only the softball record victory total, but he is now the winningest coach in Creighton athletics history - any sport.  In his 18th season, he is the most tenured softball coach in school history, surpassing Higgins’ 17 seasons between 1977-93.

Back Homan: Ellen Homan had an eight-game hitting streak snapped earlier this week, but has now reached base in 11 straight games and is hitting .436 (17-of-39) over her last 11 games.  She smacked her first career home run against North Dakota on Tuesday.  Homan, the leading freshman hitter in the MVC, is tops on the team with 12 multiple-hit games this year, including seven in her last 11 games.  During her streak, she had five multiple-hit games and hit 13-for-30 (.433).  She leads the team and ranks fifth in the MVC with a .349 average. 

Becca Brings Her Bat: Freshman pitcher Becca Changstrom worked her bat into the starting lineup last weekend at Missouri State, and it paid off.  The left-handed swinging hurler singled in her first at bat – her first career hit – against MSU and came around to score the first run of the game in CU’s 4-1 series-opening win.  On Sunday, after she allowed two runs in the first inning, she got them back in the second inning, driving in a pair of runs on a bases-loaded single, in which she fouled off seven pitches in a 10-pitch at bat.  She singled in her second at bat and dropped down a sac bunt in her third trip to the plate in CU’s 4-3 Sunday win.  She’s now 3-for-5 with two RBI this season.

Coming up Clutch: Amy Baker leads the team with 28 RBI.  The sophomore catcher has seven hits in her last 13 at bats with runners in scoring position, after she had just three hits in her first 30 at bats in that situation this season.  Baker is now 10-for-43 (.233) with runners in scoring position this season, after she led the team with a .489 average with RISP last year.
First 18, Last 18: Since starting 7-11 through 18 games, the Bluejays have gone 11-7 in their last 18 to even their record at 18-18.  The Bluejay offense kicked into gear in the 19th game of the season and has been much improved over the last half of the season.  Take a look at the statistical comparisons below:

Category    First 18    Last 18
Overall Record    7-11    11-7
Batting Average    .227    .301
Opp. Average    .243    .234
Runs    49    87
Hits    99    141
Home Runs    8    25
RBI    44    78
On-Base %    .322    .362
Slugging %    .306    .487
ERA    3.78    3.18
Earned Runs    61    49

Three Series, Three Wins: With all of its success in recent seasons, it may be surprising to note that Creighton has won its first three MVC series for the first time since 2007.  The Jays have taken 2-of-3 MVC games from Evansville, Bradley and Missouri State this spring.

Comeback Kids: In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Bluejays captured one win each season when trailing after six innings.  If that is the quota to meet, the Bluejays did so on Sunday at Missouri State.  The Jays trailed 3-2 heading into the seventh, but scored twice in their final at bat, with Ellen Homan’s RBI triple tying the score and Homan scoring the game-winning run on a squeeze bunt from Christa Ruf.  The Bluejays have posted four wins this season in games they trailed in.

Women of Steal: The Bluejays tied a season-high with five stolen bases in their 4-1 win at Missouri State last Saturday. Freshman speedster Ellen Homan stole a pair of bases, as did sophomore slugger Amy Baker.  The two stolen bases for Baker were not only the first two of her career, but they were her first two attempts after playing 88 games without attempting to steal.  The Bluejays logged six stolen bases in yesterday’s doubleheader against North Dakota, three by Danai Martin.  Martin’s 14 stolen bases rank second in the MVC and are the most by a Bluejay since Melanie Dorsey had 24 steals in 2005.

First Inning Findings:  Creighton has scored in the first inning in only six of its first 36 games this year, plating 10 first-inning runs for its lowest scoring frame of the season.  That is quite a change from last year’s offense which scored in the first inning in 29 of its 60 games.  The Jays scored 67 first-inning runs last year for their highest scoring frame of the season.

Good Home Start:  The Bluejays are hitting .331 with 10 home runs and 32 runs scored through their first six home games this spring.  Dating back to last season, the Jays are averaging 5.7 runs per game at home, with 36 homers in their last 25 home games.

No April Fools: As an MVC power over the last decade, Creighton has used April to build momentum heading into May and the postseason.  Last year the Bluejays were just 14-13 in the first two months of the season, before going 15-6 in April.  Since 2007, the Bluejays are now 62-23-1 (.727) in April, while their overall winning percentage in that same span is .662, including .630 in months outside of April.

Happy Homecoming: Amy Baker enjoyed her home opening weekend on April 2-3, going 7-for-10 with three home runs and seven RBI in CU’s three-game series with Bradley.  The sophomore is 10-for-19 (.526) with five home runs and nine RBI in her first six home games this season.  Baker, an Omaha native, has shown she enjoys playing at the CU Sports Complex in her two seasons, as she led the  Bluejays with a .385 average, eight home runs and 25 RBI in 19 home games as a freshman.

Baker Player of the Week (x2): For the second time this year and the fourth time in her career, Amy Baker was named the MVC Player of the Week on April 4.  Baker hit a home run in five of her six games during the week, including a solo shots at No. 13 Nebraska and Iowa State, and a home run in each game of CU’s three-game set with Bradley.  For the week she hit .429 (9-21) with five home runs and nine RBI.

More Baking Info: Amy Baker has 15 home runs on the season to lead the MVC, with 14 coming in her last 18 games.  Since starting the season hitting .182 (8-44) with one home run, five RBI and a .250 slugging percentage through 18 games, Baker’s bat has exploded.  In her last 18 games, Baker is hitting .373 (22-59) with 14 home runs, 25 RBI and a 1.085 slugging percentage to raise her average on the season to .291 and her slugging percentage to a league-leading .728.

In a Pinch: Heading into the second game of its doubleheader at Iowa State on March 31, Creighton’s pinch-hitters were 3-for-31 (.097) with three RBI on the season.  In the Jays’ 9-3 win over the Cyclones in game two, Bluejay pinch-hitters went 2-for-3 with three RBI.  CU pinch-hitters are now 5-for-12 (.417) in the last nine games.  McKenna Setlik had an RBI single and MaKenzie Michael had a two-run single in pinch-hitting roles at Iowa State.  Setlik added another pinch-hit against Bradley and Brittanee Grove also collected a pinch-hit against BU last weekend.  Michael again had a pinch-hit at Missouri State (April 10).

Super Subs: Looking for a spark from his deep bench, head coach Brent Vigness shook up his lineup at Iowa State on March 31.  Malloree Grove and Danai Martin had started the first  25 games of the season at third base and right field, respectively, before the changes.  Vigness inserted Ashley Frutos into the lineup at second base, shifting the infield of Jennifer Bohle from second to shortstop and Liz McKewon from shortstop to third base.  Emily Perry has replaced Martin in the lineup in right field for the last 10 games.
  Before March 31, both Perry and Frutos had not started one game this season.  In her first five starts, Perry went 6-for-17 (.353) and hit her first career home run.  Frutos has a hit in eight of her first 11 starts and is hitting .300 (9-30) with five RBI and five sacrifice bunts as a starter.

Snygg’s Heroics: Sammy Snygg is the Iowa prep record-holder with 49 home runs hit at North Polk High School, but the sophomore had yet to hit a big fly in her collegiate career before last weekend.  The sophomore picked a perfect time to hit her first home run as a Bluejay on April 2, launching a towering fly ball just inside the left field foul pole in the bottom of the eighth-inning against Bradley, giving the Jays a 4-3 walk-off win.  It was CU’s first walk-off home run since Michelle Graner hit one on May 3, 2009 and the first Bluejay homer in extra-innings since Graner did so at Drake on April 21, 2010.

Lucky 13: Freshman Becca Changstrom struck out a career-high 13 batters in a 7-1 win over Bradley on April 2.  The 13 Ks equal the highest strikeout total in a game by a Bluejay since the 2008 season.  Tara Oltman twice struck out 13 in 2010, while no Bluejay has fanned more than 13 in a game since Oltman struck out a career-high 14 against Illinois State  on April 21, 2007.

Amy’s Records: Amy Baker set Creighton freshman records last year for home runs (15), RBI (46) and total bases (109).  She has already set another school record this year, as her 15 home runs are the most by a sophomore in school history and are tied for third in single-season history.  She is now the only player in school history with two seasons of at least 15 home runs.  Her 30 career home runs are tied for fourth in school history.

Baker’s Blasts: Amy Baker hit scoreboards at Nebraska (March 30) and Iowa State (March 31) with monster home runs and enters this weekend having homered in each of her last three games.  The sophomore was named the MVC Player of the Week (March 14) after an amazing three-game span at the Diamond Devil Invitational in Tempe, Ariz.  Baker hit five home runs in a doubleheader on March 11, tying the school record by hitting three home runs in a game against Campbell on March 11.  She followed with another blast on Saturday, giving her six home runs in the span of eight plate appearances.  All six of her hits during the week were home runs, while she topped the team with 11 RBI in six games (March 8-12).

Doubles Down: Through 36 games, Creighton has just 18 doubles as a team – 15 fewer than the next closest team in the MVC.  At this rate, the Bluejays are on pace to hit 21 doubles during the regular-season, which would be the fewest ever under Brent Vigness – 15 fewer than the 36 hit by the 2003 squad.  Should the Jays stay on this pace, it will be the fewest two-baggers hit by the Jays since the 1992 team finished with 21 doubles.

Homer Happy:  Home runs haven’t necessarily meant success for the Bluejays this season.  Creighton is 10-9 when they hit a home run this year and 8-9 when they fail to hit a home run.  The Jays homered twice in their loss at Nebraska on March 30 – their only two hits of the night – and then hit a solo home run for their only run in a 7-1 loss to Iowa State on March 31.  Creighton then did not have an extra base hit, but scored nine runs on 10 singles in its 9-3 win over the Cyclones.

Slow Starters:  The first two innings haven’t been kind to the Bluejays this year, as they have been out-scored 59-26 in the first two innings of games this year.  The Jays’ 10 runs scored and .147 average in the first are their worst totals of any inning this spring.  Three of the 10 first-inning runs scored this year came in CU’s first four games.  The Bluejays have allowed 34 runs in the second inning this year, the most allowed in any frame.

Shutout Streak Snapped:  Freshman pitcher Becca Changstrom tossed three consecutive shutouts (March 12-19) to extend her scoreless innings streak to 25.1.  That streak was ended when she surrendered a two-run home run with no outs in the first inning at No. 13 Nebraska on March 30.  She went from March 11 to March 30 between runs allowed.  The rookie became the first Bluejay to throw a shutout in three straight starts since All-American Tara Oltman did so as a sophomore in 2008.

Sacrificing in Two Ways:  Senior shortstop Liz McKewon is tied for the MVC lead and ranks among NCAA leaders with 11 sacrifice bunts this season, already passing last season’s total by eight.  She has now dropped down 42 sac bunts in her career, moving her into a tie for seventh place in school history in sac bunts.  Not only does she sacrifice her at bats, but she also has sacrificed her body, getting hit by a pitch 15 times in her career to rank sixth in school history in that category.  McKewon has been hit by almost as many pitches in her career as her career base on balls total (16).

MVC Players of the Week: Freshman Becca Changstrom was named the MVC Pitcher of the Week and junior Christa Ruf was named the MVC Player of the Week on March 21 following their play at Evansville.  Changstrom flirted with two no-hitters, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth in a two-hit shutout on Mach 19 before coming within one out of a no-no on March 20.  She hurled 14 innings against UE, allowing just three hits in two complete game shutouts.  Ruf went 3-for-4 with two home runs and all four RBI in Creighton’s 4-0 win on March 20.  She also walked three times, scored three runs and had a .600 on-base percentage during the three-game set.

Getting Ruffed Up: Christa Ruf is off to a fantastic start to her junior season, as she is tied for the team-lead and fourth in the MVC with 26 RBI.  Her 26 RBI through 33 games are 12 more than she had through the first 86 games of her career.  She is second on the team and third in the MVC with eight home runs in 101 at bats – she entered the year with only one home run in her first 140 career at bats.

Martin Gets Moving: Danai Martin leads the  team and ranks second in the MVC with 14 stolen bases.  10 of those stolen bases have come in four games, as she stole two bases in the season-opener against Western Illinois (Feb. 11), posted three stolen bases against Northern Colorado (March 4) and against Howard (March 12) and again stole two bases against North Dakota (April 12).  She became the first Bluejay since Lauren Cisneros in 2005 to swipe three bases in one game.  The sophomore’s 14 steals are the most by a Bluejay since Melanie Dorsey had 24 stolen bases in 2005.

Hovinga Hurls No-Hitter: Junior pitcher Kylie Hovinga tossed the first Bluejay no-hitter in two seasons in a 10-0 win over Centenary on Feb. 25 at the UTA Classic in Arlington, Texas.  The left-hander walked one and struck out five in the five-inning no-no.  It was the 17th no-hitter thrown by the Bluejays during head coach Brent Vigness’ tenure.

Bonus Bullets
• Creighton has scored 37 runs in the fifth inning this year, its highest scoring frame of the season. The Jays are hitting .356 in the fifth, 41 points higher than their next best inning.
• Bluejay first basemen are flawless in the field this year, with 220 putouts and five assists played perfectly between Sammy Snygg, Brittanee Grove and Brittnie Kreiser.
• CU captured its first extra-inning win of the season in the second game of its doubleheader with Bradley on April 2, Sammy Snygg’s walk-off eighth-inning home run gave the Jays a 4-3 win and a 1-2 record in extras this season.
Christa Ruf is hitting 5-for-15 (.333) with a double, 2 RBI and two runs scored against Wichita State in her career.
• Amy Baker is 3-for-11 (.273) with two home runs and three RBI in four career games against the Shockers.
Ellen Homan is hitting a team-high .452 and has a team-best 14 hits with runners in scoring position.
• Ellen Homan is hitting .436 from the top spot of the lineup this year, compared to .299 in all other spots in the lineup.
Amy Baker is hitting .371 from the second spot in the lineup this year, compared to .250 in all other sports in the lineup.
Amy Baker has 30 career home runs, the rest of the team has a combined 19 career homers.
Liz McKewon is hitting .357 as CU’s starting third baseman, compared to her .216 mark as the starting shortstop.
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