Winona State softball has first home games of the season

Mattie Slavin, sports reporter

The Winona State Warriors softball team began their conference play this week in matchups against the University of Sioux Falls and Southwest Minnesota State University.

The Warriors were supposed to play Upper Iowa University on March 29 this season, but the matchup was postponed due to inclement weather and field conditions.

Since the Upper Iowa matchup was postponed, the Warriors faced the University of Sioux Falls in a doubleheader on April 2. In their last meeting, the doubleheader was split in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Going into their first taste of conference play fourth-year Kayla Kerkman discussed the team’s strategy.

“Our strategy going into the games is to play loose and fast,” Kerkman said. “We all want to bring the energy for the home opener.”

The Warriors dominated in the first game of the doubleheader. At the bottom of the second, fifth- year Ann Smolenski singled to left field, pushing third-year Libby Neveau to score the first run for the Warriors. With bases loaded, second-year Samantha Keller hit a leading third-year Brianna Luciano and Smolenski to score.

Second-year Abbie Hlas followed with a single of her own that lead Kerkman to score. To finish out the inning, fifth-year Rylee Stout singled to right push- ing Keller to score. The Warriors tallied five runs to close the second inning. At the bottom of the fourth, Keller started the scoring with a two-run single.

Second-year Carly Engelhardt hit a one-run single to total the score to 8-0. Sioux Falls couldn’t answer, leading the game to finish in five innings. Fourth-year Liz Pautz pitched for the perfect game.

Kerkman also commented on the Warriors will be adapting to their multiple doubleheaders throughout the week.

“Most weeks we play multiple doubleheaders, so making sure that we play strong throughout the whole week,” Kerkman said. “[The] weekend will help us succeed.”

Coming off their shutout, the Warriors were looking for another win, but it would prove to be a test. At the top of the second, Sioux Falls snagged the first run of the game. At the bottom of the third, the Warriors even the score with a home run from third-year Cammi Riemer. Again, at the bottom of the fourth, fourth-year Marissa Mullen hit a solo home run to put the Warriors up one.

At the top of the fifth, Sioux Falls went on a scoring run putting them ahead 6-2. The Warriors gained some ground at the bottom of the sixth. Mullen hit her second home run of the game and second-year Teaghen Amwoza also slammed a two-run homer.

The Warriors sealed the deal at the bottom of the seventh. Mullen hit her third home run of the game, driving three runs to score, and closing the game 8-6.

To finish the weekend, the Warriors faced Southwest Minnesota State. The last time these two teams met was a year ago and the Warriors won the doubleheader. The Warriors crushed Southwest Minnesota State taking the first game 10-2 and the second 11-0.

Kerkman discussed how far the teams have improved and how it will translate in their future games this season.

“Our team has grown a lot in the last couple [of] weeks especially,” Kerkman said. “I think we have finally pinned down what we need to do to be successful moving forward.”

The Warrior’s record is currently 18-8 and 4-0 in the conference. In their next matchup, the Warriors will be taking on Augustana University in a doubleheader in Sioux Falls, S.D. starting at 3 p.m. The games will be live streamed on the NSIC website.