Winona State softball at 14-8 heading into conference play

Mattie Slavin, sports reporter

The Winona State Warriors traveled to Maryville, Mo. to compete at the Missouri Western Fairfield Inn and Suites Classic this past weekend, March 19-20. The Warriors came out with a split: two wins and two losses.

Over the university’s spring break, March 7-11, 2022, the Warriors traveled down to Florida and competed against a variety of new teams. The Warriors ended the week 4-3.

“It was great to see different pitching than what we normally see,” said second-year Samantha Keller. “These different pitchers have made all our hitters more disciplined at the plate and [it] was [a] great experience for recognizing pitches and their movement.”

After coming back from their successful week, the Warriors felt ready to take on any challenge thrown their way. To start the weekend, the Warriors faced off against Northwest Missouri State University.

The Warriors had an incredibly hot start, scoring six runs at the top of the first inning. Fourth-year player Marissa Mullen slammed a double to left-center field, leading to second year Abbie Hlas and Keller to score.

Third year Libby Neveau hit an RBI, causing fifth year Rylee Stout to score again for the Warriors. Fifth year Ann Smolenski blasted a two-run home run and third year Brianna Luciano followed with a solo home run of her own.

Keeping the momentum rolling, the Warriors added another six runs to their score at the top of the second. With bases loaded, Northwest Missouri State walked Neveau which pushed Hlas to score the first run. Second year Teaghen Amwoza singled to center field advancing Stout to score. Smolensk hit an RBI, pushing Mullen to score. Luciano hit a fly ball out to left field, producing a run from Neveau.

From an error, Amwoza scored, and fourth-year Kayla Kerman reached third. Hlsa slammed a single to left, leading Kerkman to score to finish off the inning. Northwest Missouri State finally answered with a single home run by Ady Watts at the bottom of the second.

At the top of the fourth, Stout hit a three-run home run to push the score to 15-1. At the top of the fifth, the Warriors rang in an impressive nine runs, with the help of a grand-slam by Amwoza and a single home run from second year Carly Engelhardt.

The Warriors dominated with an extraordinary score of 24-3 in five innings. On top of that, the Warriors have five different players with home runs. Fifth year Liz Pautz had an impressive eight strikeouts and only gave up two runs.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, their matchup against Missouri Southern was a different story. The last time these teams met, the Warriors took the game 6-1. Missouri Southern started the scoring at the top of the first. Neveau and Kerkman collected hits for the Warriors, but it wasn’t enough to score. Missouri Southern rattled seven runs at the top of the third putting the Warriors behind 8-0. The Warriors couldn’t catch up and were shutout for the first time this season.

The Warriors, however, saw it as an opportunity to remain constant and face every challenge as a unit.

“We must show up to play each team in the same way,” said first year Logan Anderson. “We need to show up and play the best level of softball we can play.”

The next morning, the Warriors took on Missouri Southern again and they were out for revenge. At the top of the first, Neveau hit a single that led Keller to score the first run. At the top of the second, Keller hit a single of her own that guided Luciano to home plate.

At the bottom of the fourth, Missouri Southern finally earned a run of their own. The Warriors sealed the deal at the top of the sixth scoring five runs with the help of a two-run homer by Neveau. Pautz threw eight strikeouts and did not walk one batter after pitching the full seven innings. In this matchup, the Warriors took the game 7-1. The Warriors did not commit one error throughout the match.

In their final matchup of the weekend, the Warriors entered a nail-biter face-off with Northwest Missouri State again. The Warriors came out with intensity, scoring four runs at the top of the first. Hlas had a two-run homer and Amwoza followed with a two-run home run of her own. From the second to the fourth inning, Northwest Missouri went on to score five runs. At the top of the fifth, the Warriors evened the score with a single home run from Stout.

At the top of the sixth, the Warriors edged away with the led by a single home run from Engelhardt and an RBI from first year Abby Smith. At the bottom of the seventh, Northwest Missouri tied the game up forcing an extra inning. Unfortunately, Northwest Missouri snagged a walk-off run to win the game, 8-7.

Following this tournament, the Warriors will be starting their conference play. The Warriors are excited to play on their home field again.

“The team is super excited to start conference play,” said Keller. “We are super excited to play at our home field and get into the grind of the conference season!”

“I would say the team is very excited [for] conference play,” said Anderson. “There are some very good teams in the NSIC and this team loves the competition.”

The Warrior’s record is now 14-8 overall. The Warriors will be in action again on March 29, 2022, in a doubleheader against Upper Iowa University in Winona.