First-year students lead Winona State softball

Allison Mueller

Colin Kohrs / Winonan

The Winona State University softball team is young this season, but they are powerful – and they are already starting to show it. During Friday’s second game, first-year pitcher Jordyn Kleman recorded a no-hitter for the Warriors.

“We’ve got nine freshmen out of 18 kids,” head coach Greg Jones said. “We’ve worked a lot on the same stuff we’ve always done so far as our preparations, but there’s just a lot more teaching involved right now because you’re teaching it for the first time to a lot of kids.”

Their age showed last week when they split their season-opening doubleheader against Grandview College in Rochester, Minn.

“Our hope right now is that we’re playing our best ball late,” Jones said. “We want to be as competitive as we can be; we want to play as hard as we can; we want to be at our best in that moment, but ultimately what I think what our hope is, is that we’re playing our very best softball at the end of April and in May.”

According to Jones, it is all a matter of getting game experience.

“We need to continue to play in games, to relax and loosen up and get confident and comfortable in game environment. Right now we’re in practice mode,” he said. “We need to start gaining comfort in being uncomfortable. Right now we’re very comfortable going through what we go through every day.”

But some exemplary performance may have showed a little bit earlier than expected when the Warriors went from a split to a sweep, beating the University of Wisconsin-Parkside 11-1, 10-0 in an away doubleheader Friday.

First -year student Jordyn Kleman begins her collegiate softball career as a starting pitcher, which according to Jones adds some pressure to being on the team.

“That’s a big ask for a freshman to be a starting pitcher,” Jones said.

This commitment resulted in Klemen pitching 11 strikeouts in her first game, and by the end of the second doubleheader, turning out 21.

“We’ve got some freshmen that are going to make some noise,” Jones said.

On the flip side, the Warriors will also be relying on the strength of their sole senior, Allyson O’Herron, who has been starting since her first year and recorded a .987 fielding percentage last season.

“She’ll start for us this year again at first base,” Jones said. “This is her fourth year starting at her third different position. She’s been a starting third baseman, a starting second baseman and now these last two years she’s been our first baseman, and she does a very good job.”

But, as Jones said, the team’s true success will come as a group effort.

“Now since we’ve really been grinding together on a daily basis getting ready in practice since January, the chemistry has really strengthened,” Jones said. “And you can really see that they’re one group, one family and they have one direction, and that’s been really great to see.”

With that teamwork and a solid drive, Jones said the team has high hopes.

“The biggest thing about this group that we really want is to drive home a work ethic and a passion and an energy for the game,” he said. “And if we can do those things ultimately they will on paper look very similar to the teams of the past.”

By Colin Kohrs