Spring matchups readies softball for upcoming season



Senior Katie Kolb bats for the Winona State Warriors during a Feb. 11 game against Grand View University at Rochester Community and Techinical College’s dome. The team would win both of their games against Grand View by scores of 8-0 and 8-4.

Sydney Mohr, Features Editor

The Winona State University softball team started their first tournament weekend with split results, ending the Illinois tournament with two wins and three losses. The Lewis Dome Invitational was held in Rosemont, Illinois from Feb. 21-23.

The Warriors played five games over the course of three days: two on Friday, Feb. 21 in the morning and afternoon, one Saturday, Feb 22 in the evening, and two early Sunday, Feb. 23. Their two wins came from their Friday afternoon and Saturday evening game against University of Findlay and Saginaw Valley State University. Their losses were against Grand Valley State University, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, and Wayne State University (Michigan).

Head coach Greg Jones was optimistic about the weekend tournament, but knew it was when the girls would truly show how their season could go.

“We really get to see multiple lineups this season,” Jones said. “Last year, we started forty some consecutive games with the same lineup and the same nine in batting order, and this year on the first day we had two games with two different lineups.”

While it may have been a difficult weekend for the Warriors, both the coaches and the players said they were excited to get out of the gym and be back on a field.

“It’s hard, being in the gym and having the girls play against one another. There is predictability in that for them,” Jones said. “So, what we do is we try to challenge the girls mentally and get them prepared for being on the field and the scenarios they could encounter, and work on their bond as a team.”

The softball team lost two seniors last year, but are not without any teammates. The athletics department brought on eight new girls for the spring 2020 season, most of which are first-year students. Having a young basis for the team will allow for players to have a longer time to bond and to have the coach be able to identify certain players skills and figure out how to place them.

“I haven’t figured out the identity of this team yet,” Jones said. “I knew the identity of last year’s team, but I’m still trying to figure out this year. It’s all a part of the process.”

Senior Alyssa Van Valey, psychology major and pitcher for the Warriors, was more than ready to get out of the gym and back onto the field.

“It’s been hard practicing in the gym, we’re just ready to get out of there,” Van Valey said. “We’ll get to see a lot more tough competition this weekend, and it’ll help us see where we stand skill-wise as a team.”

Currently, the Warriors sit at number 17 in the rankings after their first weekend of games, but the team knows not to worry too much about pre-conference games.

“They’re basically a test to see where we are skill wise before we start going into conference,” Van Valey said. “It’s a great way to warm up and see competition we don’t usually face.”

The Warriors split the Lewis Dome conference last year as well against the same opponents but managed to go 30-0 in their conference performance and 53-9 for their overall season. While they have a few weekend tournaments before conference play starts, their biggest tournament will be the “The Spring Games” played over Winona State’s spring break in Winter Haven, Florida.

“Florida is big for us, five days with ten games and we get to see multiple lineups with multiple people,” Jones said. “And I keep telling the kids, “It doesn’t matter who starts this game, it’s who starts the last one” but this still allows me to figure out where everyone is at on the team.”

Through the first two games, we got to watch as Senior Jordyn Kleman struck out six in her first tournament game, and Van Valey shut down the Oilers in the seventh inning to receive her first win of the year.

Seniors Ali Nowak, Katie Kolb, and Alexis Kelsey would prove to be all-star hitters throughout the first day by starting the Warriors off strong in their first game with a 3-0 lead. First-year Madison Maduna would prove her talent later in the second game, hitting a double with bases loaded to score two more runs for the Warriors and preventing an extra inning.

Despite lacking in her usual conference routine of breakfast brownies, Nowak managed to pull out two doubles and a home run over the weekend alone.

“I’ve been trying to cut back, but I’m managing without them,” Nowak said.

Kleman, a secondary math education major, was itching to get back onto the field and pitch before the start of this weekend’s tournament.

“I think we’ve been practicing for such a long time now that we’re just ready to take on the field and get out there,” Kleman said.

Nowak, a physical education and health major, felt the same way.

“It’s hard to go from playing a game on a full field to going back to the gym where everything is so condensed,” Nowak said. “And it’s fun to have less predictability than when you scrimmage your own teammates.”

Junior Rylee Stout runs during uring a Feb. 11 game against Grand View University at Rochester Community and Techinical College’s dome. The team would win both of their games against Grand View by scores of 8-0 and 8-4.

The athletes had a quick turnaround for their Saturday and Sunday games, with the first pitch of their first Sunday morning game being thrown about twelve hours after the final pitch was thrown for their Saturday night game.

The Warriors struggled on both sides of the ball and ended by a final score of 11-1. The Warriors did manage to muster up eight hits against University of Wisconsin-Parkside, but eight runners left on base proved costly for the Warriors. Winona State’s lone run came off a Rylee Stout RBI single in the bottom of the fifth.

The final game on Sunday morning against Wayne State University found the Warriors falling behind early within the game once again going into the fifth inning with a 5-0 deficit. Meduna managed a triple to bring in Junior Jen Giesey, with Meduna scoring right after. The Warriors were unable to get players on base within the last two innings but managed to hold Wayne State at five runs to end their final game with a 5-2 loss.

Despite the record, the team still has high hope for their season.

“I look forward to finding out who we are going to be as the season goes on,” Jones said. “Whether we are a pitching dominated team, a hitting dominated team, a defense dominated team, I know who we are supposed to be but I’m excited to find out who we will be.”

The Warriors are back in action on Friday, Feb. 28 in Peoria, Illinois in the Louisville Slugger dome for games against Purdue Northwest and University of Illinois – Springfield, starting at 9:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.


The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.