30 wins, zero losses, conference champions

The+Winona+State+softball+team+lines+up+along+the+base+line+to+congratulate+junior+Alison+Nowak+on+her+home+run+hit+against+the+University+of+Minnesota+Duluth+on+Friday%2C+April+19+at+the+Maynard+R.+Johnson+Field.
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30 wins, zero losses, conference champions

The Winona State softball team lines up along the base line to congratulate junior Alison Nowak on her home run hit against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, April 19 at the Maynard R. Johnson Field.

The Winona State softball team lines up along the base line to congratulate junior Alison Nowak on her home run hit against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, April 19 at the Maynard R. Johnson Field.

Nicole Girgen

The Winona State softball team lines up along the base line to congratulate junior Alison Nowak on her home run hit against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, April 19 at the Maynard R. Johnson Field.

Nicole Girgen

Nicole Girgen

The Winona State softball team lines up along the base line to congratulate junior Alison Nowak on her home run hit against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, April 19 at the Maynard R. Johnson Field.

Sydney Mohr, Features Editor

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Winona State University’s softball team is an NSIC Conference Champions after finishing off their season with a perfect conference record of 30-0, and 45-5 for their overall season.

The Warriors wrapped up their regular season playing on Friday, April 26 at Maynard R. Johnson Field against University of Mary, and on Sunday, April 28 against Minot State University.

Two of the four games played this weekend were shutout games, lasting only through the fifth or sixth inning.

The first game against UMary brought in a 5-2 game, with runs being scored by junior Katie Kolb, first-year Kayla Kerkman, senior Lani Van Zyl and junior Alexis Kelsey. Runs were advanced by junior Ali Nowak with an RBI, and Kelsey with a second RBI, all happening within the fifth inning to bring up the score.

Junior Jordyn Kleman brought her winning streak up to 23-1 for the season with the win.

Kerkman mentioned how during these games, the pressure was on to make sure every move was perfect.

“It’s a nerve-racking time,” Kerkman said. “You realize how special it is to be a part of such a big part of history and you don’t want to mess that up, but you know you can always come back from it if you lose.”

Game two brought sophomore Liz Pautz onto the mound, not only to bring her pitching record up to 16-2, but also pitching another shut out.

Pautz struck out 12 batters during the second game.

Van Zyl was a lead scorer for the Warriors throughout this series, as the senior went four-for-four with hitting and managed two more home runs, three walks, four RBIs and five runs scored. Nowak and Kelsey also contributed seven RBIs throughout the games.

Sophomore Ann Smolenski hit a double that brought in two players at the end of the fourth, securing the victory for the Warriors through run-rule victory.

Sophomore Carly Kordich discussed how incredible this time of year can be for the athletes, but also how stressful it is.

“We’re super excited about where the Warriors are headed,” Kordich said. It’s a big time of the year, and we’re trying to keep things rolling and trying to keep the team’s energy up.”

Kerkman noted that it helps that the team gets along extremely well on and off the field, which is a key component to the Warriors’ success.

Sunday’s games sealed the deal for the Warriors, and NSIC history was made, as the Warriors set the record for most NSIC wins in a season.

The Warriors defeated Minot State University 8-0 and 12-1 on Sunday, finally finishing off their regular conference season and bringing Kleman’s record to 24-1 and Pautz’s to 16-2.

The Warriors celebrated their NSIC championship win and their undefeated conference season with cheers that echoed all the way to Lake Winona, and doused head coach Greg Jones in Gatorade.

The Warriors start into the NSIC tournament on Thursday, May 2 at 2 p.m., with opponent TBD.