Winona State softball team opens season, 3-2


Winona State softball pitcher, Liz Pautz, during a game. Contributed from a member of the team.

Syerah Mulhern-Allred, sports editor

Winona State University softball started off with a strong start to their season on Tuesday, Feb. 15, with two wins against Grand View University at the RCTC dome.

In game one, fifth-year student Liz Pautz pitched, striking 13 batters out and only giving up three hits and one walk.

In total, Pautz only let one run past her over 26 batters and seven innings of pitching. This concludes Pautz’s 36th win of her collegiate softball career.

“I want to be able to compete at the highest level that I possibly can,” Pautz said. “And I know that if I focus on giving 110% into every pitch I make, that goal is more achievable.”

In past years, Pautz has been a top pitcher in the NSIC conference and has been recognized for her academic excellence.

Last season she was honored with the 2021 NSIC Elite 18 award, given to an athlete who has reached the elite 18 in their sport and holds the highest GPA at that level. Pautz is double majoring in allied health and cell and molecular biology where she holds a cumulative 4.0 GPA.

At the plate in game one, the Warriors scored two runs on seven hits as compared to the Vikings who scored one run on three hits.

During game two, the Warriors secured an eight-run lead across four innings before Grand View got their only run of the game at the top of the fifth under Abbie Hlas’ pitching.

Prior to Grand View scoring, third-year Warrior Libby Neveau hit a home run to start out her season on a strong note and fifth year Rylee Stout slammed a triple.

Out of the eight points scored for the Warriors, Stout, Hlas, Mullen and Teagan Amwoza all had an RBI each, while big hitter Neveau had four runs batted in on top of her home run.

“Tuesday was good. We looked good, we had confidence definitely in the first game,” fourth year Kayla Kerkman said. “The second game towards the end we just got a little tight.”

After a three-day break, Winona State headed down to Kansas where they played a round robin against Drury University and Pittsburg State, taking a split weekend overall.

Game one on Friday went well as Pautz had a complete shutout, striking out 16 batters and not allowing any walks.

The game was strong from the plate as well when three players got home runs: Stout, Amwoza and Smolenski. Hlas had a double. Smolenski led the Warriors in the match with three RBIs, but the whole team put in a full effort for a score of 9-0.

Unfortunately, the 3-0 streak ended when the team faced Drury University later that day, walking away with a final score of 12-2.

The Panther’s managed five home runs, accounting for nine runs to put the matchup just out of reach for the Warriors.

On Saturday, the morning started strong when Hlas had a double followed by a single from Stout. Unfortunately, the Gorillas caught up and the Warriors were unable to score another run.

In the third inning, Pittsburg State had six base hits and two home runs to rack up seven runs. In the fourth inning, the Gorillas scored five more runs to bring the score up, effectively ending the game.

At the plate, Kerkman went split with 2-2 while Hlas had two hits and the only run for the team.

“I think we’re all excited to play outside again,” Kerkman said about traveling to Kansas. “It sucks playing in a dome because there were definitely a few balls on Tuesday that should have been home runs.”

In the second game of the weekend against Drury, Winona State dominated with an end score of 3-2 for the final game of the weekend.

Pautz pitched in the last game as well, striking out 13 batters and allowing only two runs.

“There had never been any expectations other than to go to the mound, compete and give it everything I’ve got,” Pautz said. “I always know that no matter the outcome of any game or practice, everyone still loves everyone the same and we will always play for each other.”

When the Panthers had fielding errors during the third inning, the Warriors were able to swoop in and take advantage of it. They man- aged to score three runs on two hits while the four athletes that earned hits included first year Logan Anderson, Hlas, Stout and second year Sam Keller.

This leaves Winona State soft- ball at 3-2 after the first week with hopes for improvement this com- ing tournament.

This weekend, the team will face five teams in the Lewis University Tournament in Romeoville, Ill. Those teams include Wayne State, Saginaw Valley State, Ursuline College, Grand Valley State once again and William Jewell College.

The tournament will take place over a series of three days: Feb 25, 26 and 27.