Warriors baseball loses first series of the season

Syerah Mulhern-Allred, sports editor

The Winona State University baseball team had a tough start to the season against Missouri Southern State Lions, leaving a losing series.

As this was the first time the two teams have faced each other since 1979, the Warriors were unsure what to expect from the Lions. The final scores were 13-1, 15-9 and 20-12 for the three games of the opening series.

However, the weekend was not all a loss as third-year first baseman Cooper Kapanke from Eau Claire, Wis. hit three home runs throughout each game.

“It was important for me to really get going right away that first weekend,” Kapanke said. “And kind of establish that confidence in myself but also in my teammates.”

On top of Kapanke’s accomplishment of the series, game one of the season highlighted a few other stars as well.

Fourth-year pitcher John Breske threw a scoreless seventh inning with one strike out after just four appearances on the mound in previous seasons.

Another fourth year and an NSIC player to watch, Derek Baumgartner from Almond, Wis., got a double on his first at bat of the year.

“Going into the season I have my own expectations,” Baumgartner said. “And I know that this recognition puts a target on my back.”

Baumgartner started in 22 games as a first year and has continued to excel throughout his career with major improvement each season. His freshman season, Baumgartner batted a .275 and threw out 33% of attempted base stealers from behind the plate.

Following that, Baumgartner’s second year had a .976 fielding percentage, only to find an increase in that for his third at a .978.

“My goal for the team is to get no less than 26 wins to get KP (Coach Kyle Poock) his 500th win of his career,” Baumgartner said. “For me, it is to just keep having good at bats and give the program and game everything I have.”

Game two started off rocky as Missouri Southern’s Henry Kusiak hit a homerun in the first inning. Since they already had a player on base, this put the Warriors at 2-0 right off the bat.

While defense on both sides stayed strong for most of the game, the Warriors were able to get close to catching up, almost snagging a win.

In the sixth inning, Kapanke got a grand slam with the bases loaded and shortly after, scored his second home run of the day to bring the score up to 8-5.

Unfortunately, the streak didn’t last long as Missouri Southern responded in the seventh inning with five runs and two more at the bottom of the eighth, not allowing the Warriors any time to catch up. While it was a rough start for the team, there were positive performances from individual athletes to give a sneak peek as to what is to come later in the season.

In between the three games, there were 5 pitchers showcased altogether. Third year Cameron Kramer was on the mound for most of the game with others swapping in occasionally.

In the third match up on Tuesday, Feb. 8, the team rallied hard but ended up falling behind. To start off, Baumgartner had his second double on his first at bat of the series, which scored first year Jess Ondell.

The Lions responded with a five-run bottom of the inning leaving the score 5-2 heading into the third.

Third year Bailey Banaszynski was on the mound while Zach Watzka, Nicolas Herold, Nathan Platter and Caleb Strack all also pitched at least an inning.

Another third year, Dane Weiland, led the game with a home run and a double along with four RBIs.

The game saw a total of three homeruns from Baumgartner, Carter Brinkman and Weiland to give the team a shot before the Lions had another five-run, bottom of the seventh.

While it was a tough weekend, things are looking up for the team as the upcoming weekend is a clean slate of games.

Warrior Baseball returns to Missouri next weekend to play against Drury University on Feb. 18, 19 and 20. The Warriors have a 3-6 record against the Drury Panthers but won in an extra inning during their game in 2021.

Both Kapanke and Baumgartner said that they are feeling confident about the match up and their skills, even after a tough season opener.

“If we go down there and do the little things right and make the easy plays,” Baumgartner said. “We should be able to come back with at the least a pair of wins.”

The team plays at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18 for the first game in the series where the team hopes to be able to redeem themselves down in Ozark, Mo.