Creighton pitcher Becca Changstrom won’t be able to let up for a minute Wednesday against Nebraska’s talented lineup.
“If you do, they are going to take advantage of it,” she said.
The teams meet for the second time Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Bowlin Stadium. NU (34-10, 12-4 Big Ten) won the first game 4-3 on April 3.
Nebraska’s pitchers, who have a 1.79 team ERA, attack and don’t give in. You can’t overlook anyone in the lineup, Changstrom said, especially with the Huskers’ .296 batting average and .400 on-base percentage.
But that’s part of what makes the game so fun.
“Just the fact they have so many good hitters, it makes you focus the whole entire game,” she said. “It makes it more intense, definitely.”
Although she’s 1-3 against Nebraska, Changstrom is more excited than intimidated. The 5-foot-5 junior will try to approach it as just another game, even though there will be lots of family and supporters from her days at Lincoln Southwest.
“I can’t get too nervous or too excited or the adrenaline will kick in and I won’t be able to focus as well,” she said.
The Huskers will see a pitcher who is operating at her peak. Changstrom (19-6) leads the Valley in ERA (1.56), strikeouts (208), opponent batting average (.195) and wins (19).
She was named the Missouri Valley pitcher of the week for a fourth time after earning two wins over Southern Illinois last weekend and eclipsing the 200-strikeout mark.
The strikeout total was a surprise. She said she tries to attack batters and never get behind on the count.
“I just work for outs,” Changstrom said. “If I get 21 outs and zero strikeouts, that’s perfectly fine. As long as we come out on top, I consider it a good game.”
The four weekly awards are the most since former CU pitcher Tara Oltman earned five in 2008. The chemistry major also has been named an MVC scholar athlete three times.
The credit for the awards goes to her team, she said. Last weekend, for example, the Bluejays scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull out a 6-5 win over the Salukis.
Changstrom said Creighton (26-12, 12-3) is working a lot harder than in past years, and it’s showing on the field, especially in the Valley where the Bluejays sit in first place.
The Bluejays have won 11 of their last 14. They’re averaging 5.4 runs in their last 10 games, with 15 home runs.
“You can just tell the team is clicking so much better in all aspects,” Changstrom said. “We are all focused on the same goal — to win a conference championship and make it into the postseason pretty far.
“Our defense is tremendously better, our hitting is better. Overall, we’re a better team than last year.”
It won’t hurt the Bluejays’ focus to step out of conference play for the one game with Nebraska. They approach every league game like a dogfight, Changstrom said, and Wednesday’s game will be no different.
“Even though Nebraska is not in our conference, it’s still going to be an intense game,” she said. “Nebraska-Creighton is always such a rivalry.”
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