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This Week:  Creighton opens the softball season this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic hosted by No. 4 Arizona State. The Bluejays open up the Valley schedule and the Classic schedule on Thursday with a doubleheader beginning with New Mexico at 2:30 p.m. CT followed by a contest against San Diego State at 5 p.m.

On Friday, CU faces No. 14 Florida for the first time in school history then takes on Oregon State later that evening. The Beavers received votes in the preseason National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top 25 poll. The Jays conclude the weekend with a Saturday morning tilt against Stephen F. Austin.

Following the Jays: Live stats links should be active this weekend and 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.

For Creighton's game against the Gators, a Florida radio crew will broadcast the game live. A link to that broadcast can be found here: http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb.

Last Season:  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.

Scouting Creighton (0-0): 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 606-428-3 record after 19 seasons at Creighton and boasts a 754-499-4 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 History at Kajikawa Classic: The Bluejays have participated in the Kajikawa, pronounced "KAH-gee-cow-uh", Classic just one previous time in 2010. The Jays opened that season with a 3-3 ledger at the season opening tournament. Creighton opened 2010 with three losses before rebounding with a trio of victories including the Bluejays' last victory over a ranked team. CU edged No. 15 Northwestern 2-1 on Valentine's Day 2010 to even its record.

The Jays played two of its 2013 opponents in the 2010 tourney, resulting in a 1-1 record. Creighton fell to San Diego State 5-3 in the opener three years ago before defeating Oregon State 5-3 two days later - its only victory against the Pac-12 school in program history.

Scouting the Opponents:

New Mexico (0-0) - The Lobos are the first of two Mountain West teams that Creighton will face Thursday. UNM, picked fifth in the seven-team MW, opens its season against the Bluejays in the Kajikawa Classic opener.

After working its way into the Top 25 early last season with a 17-2 record, UNM failed to qualify for the postseason ending 2012 at 27-25 after a 2-10 conference mark. New Mexico returns 12 letterwinners and four starters this season, as well as six seniors. The Lobos welcome five freshmen as well.

All three pitchers from last season return for the 2012-13 campaign. Sophomore Carrie Sheehan led the Lobos with a 5.07 ERA last season, getting eight wins in nine appearances and tallying a team-high two saves. Senior Kaela DeBroeck threw the most innings of all Lobo pitchers with 133.2 and posted the best record at 13-6 in 32 appearances and 22 starts with a 5.66 ERA. Senior Kari Gutierrez missed the first month of last season as she was recovering from surgery on her throwing arm but made 11 starts and 21 appearances with a 5.69 ERA.

 Top hitters for the Lobos include Chelsea Anaya, Jordan Sjostrand and Sheryl Guillermo. Anaya boasts the highest batting average among returners with a .327. The junior second baseman started all 52 games last season, recording 55 hits, including seven doubles, three triples and nine home runs. Sjostrand also started all 52 games last season and hit at a .284 clip last season, tallying 40 hits last season and crossing home plate 25 times. Guillermo, a senior outfielder, hit .237 last season, recording 32 hits, includ­ing five doubles and three home runs.

Creighton is 13-12 all-time against UNM. The Lobos are one of nine non-Valley schools that CU has faced at least 25 times. All but five of those meetings happened as a result of being in the same conference as the Lobos including the High Country Athletic Conference and the Western Athletic Conference from 1986-1992.

The teams have not played since 2004 when UNM edged the Bluejays in eight innings 2-1 at the North Texas Betlin Round-Up. It marks the only matchup between the former conference mates in the Vigness tenure of the past 19 seasons. CU is 4-5 on a neutral field against New Mexico all-time. The Jays' last win over the Lobos was a 1-0 win in Omaha in a WAC regular-season game on April 18, 1992.

San Diego State (0-0) - The Aztecs are the second of two Mountain West teams that Creighton will face Thursday. SDSU, picked to win the seven-team MW, also opens its season against the Bluejays in the Kajikawa Classic.

SDSU advanced to the NCAA tournament last season for a school-record fifth consecutive year. The Aztecs eliminated No. 20 Florida State with two 1-0 wins over the Seminoles in the Los Angeles regional. But the Aztecs fell to Hofstra in the regional final. SDSU finished with single-season program records in slugging percentage (.466), doubles (79), home runs (58), RBIs (237) and total bases (692), and received votes in both national polls.

San Diego State is coming off a 2012 campaign in which the Aztecs posted a 32-24 record (9-3 MW) en route to capturing their fifth MW regular-season crown and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Kathy Van Wyk returns 10 letterwinners, including six starters in 2013. Heading up the list of returnees are a trio of All-MW selections in junior shortstop Hayley Miles, the 2012 MW Co-Player of the Year, junior outfielder Patrice Jackson, sophomore outfielder Kayla Jordan, the 2012 MW Freshman of the Year along with fellow all-league pitcher Rebecca Arbino.

Creighton is 7-5 all-time against SDSU. The teams last played in the CU 2010 opener at the Kajikawa Classic, a 5-3 Aztec victory. Vigness is 0-2 against SDSU, a record that includes a 3-1 loss at the 2002 Compass Bank Invitational in Waco, Texas. Creighton and SDSU were conference mates in the WAC in 1991 and 1992. 

CU is 3-2 on a neutral field against San Diego State all-time. The Jays' last win over the Aztecs was a 7-0 win in San Jose, Calif., at the National Invitation Tournament on March 15, 1992.

No. 14 Florida (0-0) - Florida and Creighton will meet for the first time on the softball diamond this Friday. The Gators enter the 2013 season ranked at No. 14 in the preseason NFCA Top 25 Poll. Ironically, Creighton will serve as the opening game for UF as it will for its Thursday foes.

Florida was predicted to finish fourth in the SEC Eastern Division by vote of the league's head coaches, announced by the conference office Jan. 28. The Orange and Blue concluded the 2012 season with a 48-13 overall record, boasting a 21-7 mark in Southeastern Conference play for UF's fifth-straight 20-win league campaign.

UF received a NCAA Tournament bid for the 13th time in school history and hosted a NCAA Regional for the eighth consecutive season after picking up the No. 5 national seed, the program's fifth straight campaign securing a top-five seed.

The Gators played for the SEC Tournament Championship for just the fifth time in program history, and were propelled into the tourney championship with a memorable 2-1, eight-inning victory over Tennessee in the semifinals.

Florida embarks on the 2013 season under the leadership of seniors Ensley Gammel, Kelsey Horton and junior two-time All-American pitcher Hannah Rogers. Seven new faces grace this upcoming season's roster, including six freshmen and Southern Illinois transfer Stephanie Tofft.  

Creighton is 24-29 all-time against schools currently in the SEC. Some of the Jays' biggest games have occurred against Southeastern Conference squads. CU advanced to its first NCAA World Series with a pair of wins over South Carolina in 1982. More recently SEC teams eliminated the Bluejays from NCAA Regional action including Georgia in 2007 and Missouri in 2010. Creighton scored one of it biggest wins in school history after a 6-4 victory over Alabama in the 2005 NFCA Leadoff Classic.

The Bluejays are 11-6 against teams from the state of Florida. CU is unblemished against Bethune Cookman, Florida A&M, Florida International and Florida Atlantic at 9-0. CU scored two wins over FAU at the 2004 NCAA Regional in Lincoln. Creighton is 1-2 against Florida State. The Jays last met a Sunshine State squad in 2011 in Tempe when they fell 8-2 to Florida Gulf Coast on March 10.

Oregon State (0-0) - Oregon State also received votes in the preseason NFCA poll this season. The Beavers open with No. 2 Oklahoma in the first game of a doubleheader before taking on the Bluejays this Friday.

The Beavers welcome a new head coach, but she is a familiar face to the Beavers. Four-time USA Softball Olympian Laura Berg takes over after serving as an assistant coach last season.

Last season Oregon State advanced to the NCAA Tournament and landed at the Oklahoma regional. The Beavers went 2-2 in Norman after eliminating Lehigh and Tulsa before falling to eventual National Runner-Up OU 6-0 in the Regional Final. OSU ended the season with a 36-23 record and 9-14 ledger in the tough Pac-12.

Oregon State boasts an eight-member senior class that provides plenty of leadership and experience. OSU could boast a starting lineup with as many as five or six seniors.

Center fielder Dani Gilmore put herself into the school's single-season record book with her 17 steals (second all-time), 48 runs scored (third) and 39 walks (fifth). Oh, yeah, she was just a freshman. Gilmore earned Pac-12 All-Freshman and Pac-12 Honorable Mention selections in 2012.

Senior shortstop Elizabeth Santana begins her second season as a member of the Beavers after transferring from UC Davis. After hitting a team-best .344 last year, the smooth-fielding shortstop became just the fifth Beaver to be named to the Pac-12 First Team and a member of the NFCA Division I All-Pacific Region Second Team.

Creighton is 1-2 all-time against OSU with two of the previous three matchups taking place in Tempe. The Bluejays won the last matchup 5-3 at the 2010 Kajikawa Classic. The Beavers claimed a 9-2 win at the 1999 Fresno State Classic giving CU head coach Brent Vigness a 1-1 record against OSU. The teams' first meeting also occurred in Tempe at the 1986 Sun Devil Round Robin. Oregon State won the first meeting 4-0.

Stephen F. Austin (0-0) - Stephen F. Austin of the Southland Conference is the final opponent for Creighton this weekend in an early-morning matchup on Saturday.

The Ladyjacks were picked to place fifth in the Southland head coaches' poll on Jan. 23. Last season SFA went 16-33 overall and 6-14 in SLC play to finish in ninth place. The Ladyjacks return eight letterwinners and four starters in 2012.

SFA junior utility infielder Elizabeth Arana and junior pitcher Carlie Thomas were named to the SLC Preseason All-Conference Second Team.

Arana led the Ladyjacks in batting average (.295), hits (38), doubles (10), triples (3), runs batted in (21), total bases (66), slugging percentage (.512), walks (29) and on-base percentage (.430). Arana was also tied with Bethany Brown for the team-lead in home runs with four.

Thomas went 10-14 last season with a 3.43 ERA in 32 appearances. The junior led the team in ERA, innings pitched (161.00), complete games (16), strikeouts (110) and shutouts (2).

Creighton is 4-1 all-time against SFA. The Jays have won the past four meetings against the Ladyjacks including the last meeting in 2007, a 4-1 CU win at the Tulsa Festival Feb. 24. SFA nabbed its first win over Creighton in Vigness' first season in 1994, but the Jays swept SFA later that season in two on the road at Nacogdoches, Texas. CU also claimed a 1-0 win over the Ladyjacks in 2002 at the Compass Bank Invitational.

Recent CU History vs. Top 25: Creighton went 0-5 against top-25 teams in both 2012 and 2011, after six straight seasons with a win over a nationally-ranked opponent.  The Jays have lost their last 14 games against nationally-ranked teams.  CU's last win over a top-25 team came on Feb. 14, 2010, when the Bluejays topped No. 15 Northwestern, 2-1, at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.


Creighton 2012 Recap (28-25-1, 15-11 MVC): Creighton jumped out to the second-best start in school history last spring, winning its first seven games before playing five games against ranked opponents in an eight-game span. The Bluejay offense scored at least 10 runs in a game 11 times and scored a school-record 294 runs last season. 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 (20th), slugging percentage (27th) and homers per game (22nd). Sophomore Alexis Cantu (.357) led the MVC with 17 homers, 46 walks, a .547 on-base percentage and a .802 slugging percentage, while also going 8-5 in 64.2 innings in the circle. Cantu hit .449 with 11 homers, 25 RBI, a 1.163 slugging percentage and .600 on-base percentage in the last 20 games, and she set league records with 13 homers and 34 RBI in MVC action.

 

Junior Amy 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 ranks fourth in MVC history with 41 career home runs and is tied for 11th in MVC history with 125 career RBI. Sophomore Ellen Homan ranked second in the MVC in hitting (.370) and hits (67), and was fourth in runs (38). Another sophomore, second baseman Blair Lowe, hit .293 overall and hit .448 in her last 12 games.

 

Freshman Bri Lingl hit a league-best .405 in MVC play and ranked in the top-six in the MVC in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits, RBI, total bases and sacrifice flies in Valley contests. Sophomore right-hander Becca Changstrom went 17-13 and led the team with a 2.38 ERA, 182.1 innings pitched and 177 strikeouts. The Jays fielded at a .958 rate and own a 3.66 team ERA with four shutouts.


2012 MVC Tournament Recap: Creighton went 1-1 in the State Farm MVC Tournament in Carbondale, Ill. The fifth-seeded Bluejays defeated eighth-seeded Evansville 6-5 before falling later that day to fourth-seeded tournament host Southern Illinois by a 3-2 margin. Senior Christa Ruf was CU's lone representative to the MVC All-Tournament Team.

 

Jays Collect 2012 Postseason All-Valley Honors: Creighton hauled in more all-MVC honors than any other school in 2012, as the Jays had seven women recognized. Creighton's four First Team All-Valley picks return in 2013: Amy Baker (C), Ellen Homan (OF), Alexis Cantu (P/DP) and Bri Lingl (DP/UT). Two of CU's three Second Team All-MVC selections return this year in juniors Becca Changstrom (P) and Blair Lowe (2B).

Regional Star: Alexis Cantu also earned a spot on the 2012 NFCA All-Midwest Region Second Team. Cantu earned the nod at the UT/P spot after leading the MVC with 17 home runs and ranking second with 48 RBI.

Runners High: Creighton scored a school-record 294 runs last season, surpassing the previous high of 282 set in 2004. Creighton, which averaged 5.44 runs per game, was a hefty 21-3 when scoring five or more runs in 2012.

Homan Keeps Hitting:
2013 CU junior Ellen Homan finished last season with an active 13-game hitting streak, the longest of her young career. During this hit streak, she is batting .500 (23-46), with seven multiple-hit contests.

In the final series of the 2012 season, Homan went 8-for-11 (.727) against Missouri State, reaching base all seven times she led off an inning. For the year, she reached in 35-of-61 (.574) when she led off an inning.

Homan's hit streak is the longest by a Bluejay since current assistant Renae Sinkler had an 17-game hit streak in 2008. Homan's 19 multiple-hit games last season were the most by a Bluejay since Jamie Reiss had 20 in 2007.

Winning: Creighton outscored opponents 233-61 in its 28 wins this season, hitting .361 while owning a 1.80 ERA. Five women (Amy Baker, Taylor Flodman, Bri Lingl, Allie Mathewson and Alexis Cantu) hit .425 or better in CU's 28 wins.

Baker Bombs Away: Catcher Amy Baker had a pair of home runs in the last week of April 2012, giving her 41 in her career to rank fourth in MVC history. She had both RBI in Creighton's 2-1 win over Nebraska on April 25th, including a sixth-inning dinger that helped the Jays to their first victory over the Huskers since 2009.

Lowe Highlights: Blair Lowe hit .406 in CU's last 11 games of 2012, going 13-for-32 in that stretch. She had two or more hits in five of the last 11 games, after not having any multiple-hit games in the first 67 contests of her career. Lowe was hitting .234 before this hot streak, and finished the campaign batting .293.

The 750 Club: Creighton head coach Brent Vigness won his 750th game as a college coach on April 22 in a 7-0 win vs. Evansville. He's now 754-499-4 in 24 years as a head coach, including five years at Assumption.

Capturing 600: Brent Vigness earned his 600th win at Creighton on April 21st in CU's 4-3 win vs. Evansville. Vigness' 606 victories are more than any Creighton coach in any sport in school history.

Erasing MVC Records: Alexis Cantu tore up MVC pitching last year, leading the league with 13 homers and 34 RBI in Valley play. Cantu's 13 homers and 34 RBI were both the most in league history for a conference season, breaking Jessie Buker's mark of 12 homers (ILS, 2007) and Rachel Gerking's (UNI, 2009) mark of 33 RBI.

Cantu also hit .400 in league play, second in the MVC to teammate Bri Lingl's .405 average that led the Valley. With one more hit in league play, Cantu would have won the Triple Crown (AVG, HR, RBI) for league games only, the first to do so since UNI's Deena Chipp in 1993. Cantu also led the MVC in total bases (70), slugging percentage (1.000), on-base percentage (.543) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.447) in league games.

From a team perspective, Creighton's 150 runs in Valley play were the second most by any team in league history, trailing only the Valley record of 159 set by Southern Illinois in 2005. In addition, Creighton owned 35 homers in league play this season. That's a CU school-record for any MVC campaign, and fifth in MVC history for one season.


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