Published Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm / Updated at 8:49 pm
SOFTBALL
Jays ready to be tested at tournament
Kajikawa Classic
Where: Tempe, Ariz.
Schedule: 3:30 p.m. Thursday vs. San Jose State; 6 p.m. vs. Arizona State; 11 a.m. Friday vs. Western Michigan; 1:30 p.m. vs. Boise State; 10 a.m. Saturday vs. California.

The Creighton softball team can’t wait to get to Arizona.

It’s not just to escape the snowy weather in Omaha, although coach Brent Vigness said it should be in the balmy 60s in Tempe.

“We need to go play and see where we are at,” he said. “The caliber of competition we are going to face early is pretty tough.”

The Bluejays open at 3:30 p.m. CST Thursday against San Jose State, followed by a 6 p.m. matchup with No. 7 Arizona State. On Friday they’ll face Western Michigan at 11 a.m. and Boise State at 1:30 p.m. before closing the Kajikawa Classic with a 10 a.m. game Saturday against No. 24 California.

Creighton hasn’t had the opportunities to get outside like Arizona State or California, but the Jays are further ahead on that count than they’ve been in the past. Since practice began Jan. 15, they’ve worked outside three or four times and have done more work in the Rasmussen Center, where they can simulate game conditions.

The Jays, Vigness said, have practiced well so far and he likes what he sees.

“I think we have a pretty good team,” he said. “The nice thing, the last few years, we’ve been talking about how young we were. When you look at the makeup of our team, we have some experience we haven’t necessarily had the last few years. The leadership has been good.”

Although it will hurt to be without all-time home run leader Amy Baker, who graduated, Creighton returns six seniors and two juniors. The Bluejays have also brought in two junior college transfers.

CU returns starters at pitcher (Becca Changstrom), catcher (Bri Lingl), center field (Kelsey Allender), left field (Ellen Homan), and shortstop (Liz Dike). Utility player Blair Lowe will bring a lot of experience to third base.

“She has done a great job and is a good leader for us,” Vigness said.

Creighton brought in five freshmen, so Vigness said a goal this weekend is to see what they can add to the lineup and if any can contribute right away after showing potential in practice.

Vigness said he’d like to see the returning players show they’ve improved since last season, when CU (29-18, 15-7) won the regular-season Missouri Valley title.

One area Vigness will be looking at is in the circle, where Changstrom has gotten better every year. Some players behind her have shown promise, Vigness said, just not as quickly as he’d like.

With the depth he has at pitcher, consistency is his No. 1 goal.

“I hope that can be a strength of ours,” Vigness said. “We need to get them tested early.”

The Bluejays will get lots of opportunities to show what they can do this weekend. Vigness said he’d like to have his lineup solidified before the start of Big East play on March 22 and 23 at Butler.

“I think that’s the goal of most coaches: see where the team is and what the newcomers can do,” he said.

“I feel good about our team and where we are at right now.”

Contact the writer: Marjie Ducey

marjie.ducey@owh.com    |   402-444-1034

Marjie Ducey covers state colleges, women's sports, high schools, select sports, outdoors, holes in one, soccer, running and any other type of interesting story. She also puts out the metro edition and does some updating on Omaha.com.

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