Amy Baker’s two-run home run in the top of the third inning gave All-American Tara Oltman the run support she needed to win her second 2-1 ball game of the day, as the Creighton softball team topped regular-season champion Southern Illinois Friday night in the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Drake’s Buel Field. The win, head coach Brent Vigness’ 700th career victory, moves Creighton into the winner-take-all championship game on Saturday.
The Bluejays (36-21) will await the winner of Saturday’s elimination game between Missouri State and Southern Illinois. MSU and SIU play at 11 a.m., with the winner advancing to play Creighton at 2:30 p.m., in the title game. The championship game will be televised live on Fox Sports Net Midwest in Omaha.
Creighton broke through against MVC Pitcher of the Year Danielle Glosson in the top of the third inning. With two outs, SIU opted to pitch around two-time MVC Player of the Year Renae Sinkler, walking her on four pitches. Baker, a freshman from Omaha Westside, made that strategy backfire when she launched a high towering home run over the left field fence on the first pitch she saw. Her 15th home run of the season put the Jays on top 2-0.
The Salukis (37-19) put together a threat in the bottom of the fifth inning, starting with a leadoff single from Natalee Weissinger which glanced off of Oltman’s glove. Christina Trapani followed with a comebacker to Oltman, but the Bluejay hurler’s throw to second base pulled Michelle Koch off the bag to put two runners on with no outs. Oltman struck out Chelsea Held and Alicia Junker, but walked Mallory Duran to load the bases with two out. Haley Gorman grounded out to second base, ending the scoring threat and keeping SIU off the board.
SIU had another runner in scoring position in the sixth inning when Allie Hanson doubled to left center field with two outs. Oltman followed with a strike out Weissinger to end the inning and move the game into the seventh.
The Salukis finally did push a run across on a bang-bang play in the bottom of the seventh inning. Chelsea Held blooped a one out double to right center field to get the inning going. With two down, Duran reached on a single that Sinkler kept on the infield by diving to her right. Duran beat Sinkler to the bag and Held never stopped running to score what proved to be SIU’s only run. Gorman followed by grounding out to shortstop on the first pitch.
Oltman (31-12) tied her own school and MVC record with her 31st win of the year, allowing just five hits to the Salukis. She allowed one run, walked two and struck out six to improve to 10-0 all-time at Buel Field.
Glosson, who had struck out 18 in a 10-inning shutout of Missouri State earlier in the day, took the loss to drop to 24-13. The junior right-hander allowed only four hits, walked two and struck out nine in defeat.
Creighton will be taking aim at its fifth MVC title in the last eight years, while appearing in its ninth championship game in the last 12 years at the event