Sam Thiel/ Winonan
The No. 22 Winona State University softball team continued its quest for perfection in the NSIC conference with a doubleheader sweep against Concordia-St. Paul Wednesday in Winona.
Winona State scored all of its runs in the fourth inning, going on to claim a 4-1 victory in the first game before using 12 hits to their advantage for the 9-0 shutout in the nightcap.
The Warriors and Golden Bears were locked in a battle of the pitchers in the opener, going through the first three innings without scoring a run with only three hits total, two of which came from Winona State. The Warriors broke open the bats in the fourth starting with an RBI single by McKenna Larsen to give Winona State a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Larsen reached home on an error after the bases were loaded and Evie Schaller brought in Natalie Kalmes and Allyson O’Herron thanks to a pinch hit single. By the time the Warriors finished batting, 10 players recorded an at bat and their advantage was 4-0.
Ashley Walker posted a strong effort on the hill, going all seven innings while giving up only a trio of hits and one run, a solo homer in the fifth. The senior starter also fanned a couple of batters while moving to 13-3 on the year.
Winona State went to work on the offensive end in the nightcap, recording early homers and scores in each inning, walking away with a 9-0 win in only four and a half innings.
Walker kicked off the scoring with a bomb in the first frame, her second of the year, to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead. Winona State tacked an additional run in the second inning with a Kalmes blast over the center field fence, her team-leading sixth of the season.
The Warriors continued to put their feet on the gas pedal, getting a single from Morgan Lintz that scored a pair. O’Herron then added a RBI single to score Lintz for the 5-0 advantage.
Later in the fourth, Lintz smacked a single to left to bring in Reed Karsten. Larsen – who increased her batting average for the season to .370 – continued the outburst with a two RBI double into center and O’Herron ended the scoring on an RBI single to put Winona State up 9-0.
“We have been doing all parts of the game right,” Larsen said. “Our defense has been unstoppable and the offense has been very clutch, especially with two outs.”
Lythberg controlled the game right from the start, moving to 15-3 on the year with a complete game effort, going five innings with three hits and four strikeouts, only needing 60 pitches total.
The win gave Winona State its 30th on the year, marking the team’s 14th consecutive season with at least 30 victories.
The Warriors carried their win streak to 13 games on Saturday against the University of Mary with an opening 8-0 victory in six innings, but saw the streak come to an end in a 3-2 loss in the nightcap.
Winona State continued to hit the long ball in the opener, with Karsten blasting a solo shot to center for the 1-0 lead and Lintz knocking out a two-run homer of her own to make it 3-0.
Larsen carried the scoring in the third with a two-run bomb to put the Warriors up 5-0.
Karsten chipped in an RBI single in the fourth for the 6-0 advantage and also lined an RBI double to finish with a trio of hits and RBIs for the day. The junior then came across thanks to a fielder’s choice to make it the 8-0 final.
Walker was in control in the circle, throwing a complete game two-hitter to move to 14-3 on the year. The senior didn’t give up a base hit the rest of the game after allowing a pair of singles in the first.
Coach Greg Jones also reached a milestone by earning his 600th career victory in the process.
The nightcap saw Winona State race to an early advantage but the Marauders score three runs in the sixth to give the Warriors its first conference loss on the year.
Kalmes started things off for the Warriors in the second with a RBI double to left to score Lintz for the 1-0 advantage.
Winona State tacked on an additional run in the fifth with an RBI fielder’s choice by Karsten to plate Shannon Nelson for the 2-0 advantage.
In the sixth inning the Warriors saw their lead diminish, with the Marauders capitalizing on a couple of errors by the catcher.
A single by the Marauders allowed a pair of runners to come across in the following at bat to put Mary up 3-2, which was the final score.
Lythberg was credited with the loss despite tossing a complete game that saw seven strikeouts, four hits and no earned runs.
The Warriors used some late-game heroics to net a 4-3 victory in game one of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader against Minot State in Winona.
After an opening two-run homer by the Beavers in the first, the Warriors answered with a run in the third thanks to an error to make it 2-1.
In the fifth, Minot State scored its third run of the day with a RBI single and pushed its advantage to 3-1.
The Warriors started their comeback attempt in the sixth inning, with Jessica Kullmann scoring on an error and O’Herron plating Kalmes on an RBI single to knot things up at three apiece.
In the seventh, after Lexi Perez and Karsten reached base, Walker hit a bunt single to the pitcher, bringing Perez home for the walk-off victory when the catcher misplayed the throw.
Walker went the distance on the hill, pitching seven innings and allowing just three runs on seven hits while striking out five. The senior also moved to 15-3 on the season.
Winona State capped off its 10-game homestand with another walk-off victory, sweeping Minot State with a 4-3 win in the nightcap.
Just like the opener, the Warriors found themselves down early, this time a two-run deficit heading into the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, O’Herron got Winona State on the board with an RBI bunt single to cut the lead to one at 2-1.
After the Beavers added another run in the top of the seventh to take a 3-1 lead, it was Winona State’s turn to respond. With Karsten on base, Walker smashed a two-run bomb to left on a full count to tie the game at three.
A couple of batters later, O’Herron provided the walk-off with a RBI single to right, scoring Shannon Nelson and giving the Warriors the 4-3 victory.
Lythberg tossed a complete game, going seven innings while giving up four hits and three runs with eight strikeouts for her 16th victory on the mound.
Winona State (33-8 overall, 15-1 NSIC) will face Upper Iowa in a doubleheader on Thursday at home before finally starting the final road trip of the regular season with matchups against Northern State and MSU Moorhead.