The Creighton softball team swept a doubleheader from Northern Iowa to move into first place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) following losses by Drake and Illinois State on Friday. The Bluejays defeated the Panthers 4-1 in the opener and capitalized on a seven-run first inning to win the nightcap 11-1 at the CU Sports Complex.
Despite hosting the Valley series, Creighton (18-9, 4-1 MVC) serves as the designated visiting team in each contest this weekend. The series was originally scheduled to be played at Northern Iowa (13-18, 3-3 MVC) but field conditions forced the three-game set to be moved to Omaha.
Creighton outscored UNI 15-2 on the day and posted 14 hits while allowing just eight. Half of the CU hits went for extra bases including six doubles with half of those off the bat of junior Ellen Homan. Freshman Kelsey Allender highlighted the day with her first career grand slam and second home run of the season in game two. Allender’s first home run this season was an inside-the-park variety against Grambling State on Feb. 24.
Joining Homan on the stat sheet with multiple hits Friday was sophomore Bri Lingl with three while junior Blair Lowe and senior Amy Baker each posted two. Baker also recorded two RBI moved to push her career total to 153. She needs just four move runs batted in to tie the MVC record of 157 held by Illinois State’s Heather Stella since 1999.
The Bluejays’ pitching staff was also solid with a pair of complete-game victories from junior Becca Changstrom and classmate Alexis Cantu. Each pitcher gave up one run on four hits. Changstrom posted her fourth consecutive double-digit strikeout outing to give her seven on the season after registering 11 K’s in the game one victory.
Changstrom started against UNI’s Jamie Fisher in game one. Fisher was named the 2012 MVC Pitcher of the Year last season. Both hurlers did not disappoint, combining for 25 strikeouts in the game.
Both teams scattered three hits on each side through the first six innings of play in the opener; all of the scoring came in the seventh.
Lingl opened the inning with a double to left field. Freshman Erin McGonigal then entered the game as a pinch runner at second with no outs. McGonigal moved to third on a wild pitch from Fisher.
After a walk to Lowe, Allender posted the first RBI of the day on a ground out to short that scored McGonigal to give the Bluejays a 1-0 lead. Homan followed later with a two-out double to right center to score Lowe and make it 2-0 CU.
Sophomore Liz Dike kept the two-out rally going with a single to score Homan and allow Creighton to move ahead 3-0. An RBI single from Baker completed the rally to put the Jays up 4-0 heading to the bottom of the seventh.
UNI responded in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out solo home run by Micalla Rettinger, but the Jays retired the next two batters to claim the 4-1 victory.
Changstrom improved to 12-4 on the season with the win.
Cantu earned the start for the Bluejays in the circle in game two against Omaha native Mariellen Doughty of UNI.
Unlike game one, the majority of the scoring occurred in the first inning of the second contest and all by Creighton.
Homan opened the game with a walk. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Dike and consecutive walks to Baker and Lingl loaded the bases for Creighton. A UNI fielding error allowed freshman Blake Ringle to reach base and score Dike from third to give CU a 1-0 advantage.
Cantu helped her cause with a two-RBI single to left center to put the Jays up 3-0 with one out. A four-pitch walk to Lowe loaded the bases again for Creighton and chased Doughty from the circle as Abby Van Vleet took over the UNI pitching duties.
Allender welcomed the new pitcher to the game with her first career grand slam. It marked the first slam hit by a CU freshman since 2004 (Caitlin Marcano). Allender’s second homer of the year pushed the Bluejay lead to 7-0 before UNI got out of the inning.
Neither team scored again until the fourth frame.
Homan opened the fourth with a double to left center. After a fly out, Homan scored from third on an RBI single from Baker to make it 8-0, Creighton.
UNI answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth. The Panthers earned a one-out walk before a two-out RBI single scored UNI’s lone run of the game with the Bluejays holding an 8-1 lead.
Creighton was able to close the game out in five innings with three scores in the top of the fifth. A one-out walk to Cantu started the rally. A single by Lowe allowed the runners to move into scoring position before a walk to Allender loaded the bases.
Freshman Kim Jacobson posted her first career multi-RBI effort with a three-run double to left center. The trio of runs held up for the final 11-1 score.
Cantu moved to 5-4 this season with the win.
Creighton and UNI conclude their series with a single game at noon on Saturday at the CU Sports Complex