OMAHA, Neb. – The Creighton softball team posted a split in a doubleheader against Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon as the Jays edged the Salukis 6-5 in eight innings in a thrilling come-from-behind win before dropping the nightcap 6-1 at the CU Sports Complex.
Creighton (25-12, 11-3 MVC) and Southern Illinois (20-23, 8-9 MVC) combined for 18 runs and 32 hits in 15 innings of play but all of the runs, and most of the hits, were recorded in just three of those 15 frames. The first-place Bluejays enter the series finale with SIU on Sunday holding a one-half game lead on second-place Drake who swept a twin bill at Bradley.
The teams kept fans on the edge of their seats in game one. Neither team scored through the first seven innings, then the bats awoke. SIU plated five runs in the top of the eighth inning before a dramatic comeback by the Jays. Creighton rallied to score six in the bottom of the frame. After a three-run pinch-hit home run from freshman Blake Ringle the Jays loaded the bases. That set up a walk-off single from junior Ellen Homan that drove in two runs to clinch the victory.
Southern Illinois utilized another five-run inning in game two to take control of the contest in the fifth. Creighton and SIU traded runs in the fifth and sixth frames resulting in a 6-1 victory for the visiting Salukis. The loss snapped a season-long six-game win streak for Creighton.
CU sophomore Liz Dike extended her hitting streak to four games with a .500 clip at the plate, connecting on four singles on the day. Homan went 3-for-7 Saturday including the two-RBI single to win game one and a ground-rule double in game two.
Junior Becca Changstrom pitched a complete-game win through eight innings of game one. She approached the 150-pitch mark in the game, allowing five runs on seven hits while striking out a dozen Salukis. It marked her tenth double-digit strikeout performance of the season.
Changstrom started in the circle for Creighton while the Jays’ batters went up against Brittney Lang.
The first seven innings of the game accounted for a true pitcher’s duel as the hurlers held the powerful offenses off the scoreboard. The pitchers combined for 25 strikeouts in the game. Neither offense put two runners on base until the eighth inning.
After seven innings Creighton had posted just three hits on a pair of infield singles from Dike and a single up the middle by sophomore Bri Lingl.
Meanwhile, Changstrom held SIU without a hit through five innings and allowed just three base runners. Two walks and a Bluejay error accounted for the SIU offense until a single in the sixth broke up Changstrom’s no-hit bid.
The game dramatically swung in favor of the offenses in the eighth inning after no runs scored and a combined four hits through seven innings.
After a fly out to open the top of the eighth inning, SIU started its rally with back-to-back singles. That set up a two-out, three-run homer by SIU’s Jayna Spivey that went deep over the wall in center to make it 3-0 SIU. Continuing the two-out rally, the Salukis followed with back-to-back doubles and an RBI-single to plate two more runs for a 5-0 advantage.
Homan opened the CU eighth inning with a ground out but took advantage of a chance at redemption later in the inning. Freshman Kelsey Allender started the Bluejay offense with an infield single. Senior Ashley Frutos then drew a walk.
CU head coach Brent Vigness subbed in Ringle at the plate with two on and one out and she delivered a rocket over the fence in left center to cut the Saluki lead to 5-3.
Junior Blair Lowe lined a single into right field to continue Creighton’s offense. Then Dike continued her solid day at the plate by dropping in a single to left center. Senior Amy Baker kept the rally going with an infield single to load the bases. Freshman Erin McGonigal came into the game to run for Baker at first.
Junior Alexis Cantu drew a walk on a full count to push across another Bluejay run and cut the SIU advantage to 5-4 with one out. Freshman Katie Pascuzzi came on to run for Cantu at first base.
With the bases loaded, Lingl lined a shot to the SIU shortstop for the second out of the frame. That brought up Homan for the second time in the inning and she came through for the Jays.
The junior punched a single through the middle of the SIU defense to record a two-RBI game-winning hit and give the Bluejays a thrilling 6-5 come-from-behind victory in game one.
In the final frame alone the teams combined for 11 runs on 12 hits and two homers.
Changstrom improved to 18-6 with the win. Lang dropped to 10-12 on the year after the loss but registered a career high of 13 strikeouts on the day.
Cantu started game two for the Bluejays in the circle against SIU’s Alyssa Wunderlich.
The nightcap started much like the opener as neither offense could score a run through four innings of action. SIU notched two hits and left five runners on base while CU posted one hit and stranded three heading into the fifth inning.
SIU’s offense then erupted with another five-run inning. The Salukis quickly loaded the bases with no outs after connecting on three singles. A walk pushed across the first run of game two for a 1-0 Southern Illinois advantage.
Another Saluki single and a ground out scored two more runs to make it 3-0 with one retired in the fifth. A two-RBI single added another pair of SIU scores to push the visitors’ lead to 5-0 before Creighton could get out of the inning.
The Bluejays answered with a run in the bottom of the frame. Homan opened with a bunt single down the third base line. Frutos drew a walk after a fielder’s choice from Allender to put two on with one out. Lowe singled to right field to load the bases. That forced an SIU pitching change with one out on the board. A two-out walk to Baker scored the Jays’ only run of the game before the Salukis escaped the inning up 5-1.
CU junior Brittany Telecky saw her first conference action of the season in the circle over the final two innings.
SIU added an insurance run off of the new pitcher. Two singles and a CU error set up a sacrifice fly for the Salukis to score the final run of the game.
Creighton stranded three over the final two innings but could not score a run.
Cantu dropped to 6-5 after the loss while Wunderlich improved to 7-9 on the year.
Creighton completes the series with Southern Illinois with a single game slated for noon on Sunday at the CU Sports Complex.
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Creighton meets Villanova in a 16 inning thriller on the softball diamond.