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ST. LOUIS (Jan. 23) - 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 Wednesday afternoon.

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.

Named the 2012 MVC Newcomer of the Year, CU junior Alexis Cantu set conference single-season records with 13 home runs and 34 RBI last season. She led the MVC with 17 homers, a school record of 46 walks, a .547 on-base percentage and a .802 slugging percentage. She finished sixth in the conference with a .357 average at the plate while also going 8-5 in 64.2 innings pitched in the circle. In the last 20 games of the year, Cantu hit .449 with 11 homers, 25 RBI, a 1.163 slugging percentage and a .600 on-base percentage, en route to 2012 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Midwest Region Team and First Team All-MVC selections.

Baker was third in the MVC with 46 RBI, fifth in on-base percentage (.471), sacrifice flies (3) and walks (33), sixth in batting average (.340) and seventh in both slugging percentage (.551) and home runs (8). She currently ranks fourth in MVC history with 41 career home runs and is tied for 11th in MVC history with 125 career runs batted in. Baker is a three-time All-MVC selection in her career at Creighton entering her final season.

Homan ranked second in the MVC in hitting (.370) and hits (67), and was fourth in runs (38). She finished 2012 on a 13-game hitting streak, the longest of her career. During her hitting streak, she hit .500 (23-46), with seven multiple-hit contests. Her 19 multiple-hit games this season were the most by any Bluejay since 2007. As Creighton's leadoff hitter, Homan reached safe­ly to open nine of the last 13 games, including three extra-base hits. She claimed All-MVC First Team honors last year.

In the circle Changstrom went 17-13 and led the team with a 2.38 ERA, 182.1 innings pitched and 177 strikeouts in 2012. She registered a 10-6 record in MVC play last season. Her 10 Valley wins ranked third-most in the league. For her career, Changstrom is 21-10 in MVC action with eight shutouts. In her last 13 Valley starts she is 9-4 and has allowed just 13 earned runs resulting in a 1.09 ERA. Changstrom claimed All-MVC Second team honors in each of her first two seasons as a Bluejay.

In the preseason coaches' poll, Creighton received a total of 80 points and received three first-place votes, tied for the most of any squad this year, to rank fourth in the 2013 predictions. 

Defending MVC tournament champion Illinois State shared or claimed the top spot in the preseason poll the third straight season with 85 points. Southern Illinois tied ISU atop the poll for the second time in three seasons (2011). Each team received two first-place votes. The 2012 regular season champion, UNI, came in third picking up three first-place votes and 82 points, followed by the Bluejays with the remaining three first-place nods and 80 points in the fourth spot.

Drake was slotted fifth with 62 points. Missouri State was picked to finish sixth with 51 points, followed by Bradley in seventh with 42 points. Wichita State edged out Evansville by a point for eighth place at 23 points while Indiana State rounded out the poll with 18 points in the tenth position.

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.

Creighton opens the 2013 campaign at the Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., Feb. 7-9.  CU's first home and conference game is March 23 against Illinois State. Creighton will host the 2013 MVC Tournament at the CU Sports Complex from May 9-11.

2013 MVC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll

Rank   Team (first-place votes)    Points

T1.       Illinois State (2)                    85

T1.       Southern Illinois (2)              85

3.         UNI (3)                                82

4.         Creighton (3)                      80

5.         Drake                                   62

6.         Missouri State                       51

7.         Bradley                                42

8.         Wichita State                        23

9.         Evansville                             22

10.       Indiana State                        18

2013 Preseason All-MVC Softball Team

Player, Team                              Pos.    Yr.       Hometown (Previous School)

Taylor Orsburn, Southern Illinois     1B       Jr.        Alto Pass, Ill. (Cobden)

Ashley Brentz, Missouri State          2B       Jr.        St. Louis, Mo. (Parkway South)

Jayna Spivey, Southern Illinois        2B       Jr.        Rosiclare, Ill. (Hardin County)

Elizabeth Kay, Illinois State             3B       Sr.        Bartlett, Ill. (Bartlett)

Kirstin Cutter, Missouri State           SS      Sr.        Oklahoma City, Okla. (Western Heights)

Amy Baker, Creighton                    C       Sr.       Omaha, Neb. (Westside)

Allie VadeBoncouer, Southern Illinois C       Jr.        Kankakee, Ill. (Kankakee)

Alexis Cantu, Creighton                DP-P   Jr.        Frisco, Texas (UT Arlington)

Jhavon Hamilton, Illinois State         DP/UT  Sr.       Joliet, Ill. (Joliet West)

Morgan Barchan, Southern Illinois    OF       Sr.        Arcadia, Calif. (Arcadia)

Ellen Homan, Creighton                OF       Jr.        Omaha, Neb. (Skutt Catholic)

Lauren Kellar, Illinois State              OF       Sr.        Colfax, Ill. (Ridgeview)

Becca Changstrom, Creighton      P          Jr.        Lincoln, Neb. (Southwest)

Jamie Fisher, UNI                            P          Jr.        Conrad, Iowa (BCLUW)

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