Softball continues conference winning streak

Sydney Mohr, Features Editor

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Winona State University’s softball team swept through the weekend, capturing four wins in Aberdeen, South Dakota on Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31.

On Saturday, the team faced off against Northern State University, winning the first with a straight 9-0 shutout, then winning the second in closer fashion with 6-5 after eight innings.

Sunday brought the Warriors and Minnesota State University Moorhead against each other, with the Warriors just squeezing by with a win in the first game in the extended eighth inning. Game two brought another shutout win with an end score of 12-0, bringing their season record to 21-5.

Winona State started off conference play on Wednesday, March 27 in Fayette, Iowa against Upper Iowa University, with the Warriors  winning both matchups with scores of 7-1 and 10-0.

In the Saturday night sweep, junior Jordyn Kleman took the mound to clinch both wins, bringing her winning total up to 20-1.

Kleman managed to strike out six batters throughout the first game and another five in game two against Northern State. Junior Alyssa Van Valey helped Kleman out on the mound, bringing in the sixth strikeout for the second game.

Head coach Greg Jones told the Winonan how ecstatic he was with the team’s success so far.

“I am excited about this team. It has been a great start record-wise, but more importantly, we are showing signs of growth as a team,” Jones said. “The NSIC is so tough.  Every game is a new challenge.  There are no days off in this league. Any team can win or lose on any day. I am excited to see how we do, but it is a long tough grind that all we can do is compete like crazy in the game that we are in each day.”

Junior Alison Nowak proved to be a big part of the team’s success throughout the second game against Northern, as in her four times at bat she managed three hits, which included an RBI and one run and her fourth home run of the season to account to Winona’s 6-5 win.

An RBI-single by junior Alexis Kelsey made it a one-run affair once more in the top of the third and first-year Kayla Kerkman gave the Warriors their first lead of the game with a two-run single in the fourth inning.

The Warriors showed their resolve by battling back in their final at-bats of the seventh inning. Kelsey drew a one-out walk to start the rally and sophomore Jen Giesey walked with two outs. Sophomore Rina Niehoff extended the frame on a fielder’s choice to load the bases in front of the game-tying single by sophomore Carly Kordich.

Kleman managed to push the game into extra innings after the seventh, where the Warriors brought in the win through their last at bat. A two-out single by sophomore Ann Smolenski kept the eighth inning alive before Giesey stole on a Northern State error, which allowed Nowak to make it home for the game-winning run.

“Individually, I am feeling good about my play. I think I am getting comfortable offensively and seeing the ball well,” Nowak said. “I have worked on trying to expand my zone and the pitches that I can hit hard or make solid contact with. I think it has paid off well so far. On the defensive side, I am just happy to play and be behind the plate after not playing any defense last season.”

Nowak leads the NSIC with a .474 batting average and managed hits on her six of seven times at bat on Saturday.

The Warriors will open at home this upcoming weekend. Coach Jones said he is excited about the home opener, even though opening at home can be difficult.

“The one thing that is so different about our sport is how long we are away from home to start the season,” Jones said. “We open the season with 28 straight road games. We spend the entire first half of our season on busses and in hotels. It is great to get the chance to sleep in our own beds, play on our field, and in front of our own friends, family and supporters.”

The Warriors will bring it home this upcoming weekend for home opener weekend with double headers on Saturday, April 6 against Southwest Minnesota State University at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and again on Sunday, April 7 against University of Sioux Falls at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.