Softball ends week with four wins
Emma Cavanaugh / Winonan
Winona State University softball started out the week with a slump. They lost two games against Minnesota State University, Mankato at the beginning of the week, losing the first game 0-1 and the second 2-5.
Junior infielder Lani Van Zyl shared her views on their losses from the week.
“This week we were swept by Mankato. I think that was an important series for our team, because up until that point we had been showing up and beating these teams and moving on, and we had yet to play someone that had been doing the exact thing to other teams,” Van Zyl said. “Mankato is a very good ball club, and I think taking two losses against them showed us that we still have things we need to work on, and we can’t become complacent. The bright side to this week is that we turned around and got four wins on the weekend against Duluth and St. Cloud.”
The team came back later in the week, playing University of Minnesota Duluth on April 13, and St. Cloud State University on April 14. Winona State took all four games.
First-year pitcher Jordan Kleman commented on the week of games.
“We had our first conference loss this week against Mankato, but we were able to bounce back from it and win four games this weekend,” Kleman said. “We played double headers against Duluth and Saint Cloud State. It was exciting to win those games and I was really proud of how we came ready to play and determined to win.”
Van Zyl commented on what could have gone differently during the six games of the week.
“I would say that in the Mankato games, there were about 5 different moments that could have turned the momentum in our favor. That does not mean that we would have gotten it done or that they would not have turned around and responded with a few runs of their own,” Van Zyl said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get it done and that’s frustrating, but with every loss comes a lesson and I think it is beneficial for our team to have to overcome frustrating losses and grow from it.”
Junior pitcher McKenna Larsen added that the Warriors would get another shot versus Mankato.
“Obviously if we would have beat Mankato things would have been awesome. If you would have just taken away one inning in both games, things would have been so different. We needed the big hit at the right time and unfortunately they got it instead of us,” Larsen said. “That’s how the ball bounces sometimes but we will get another try at them, and this time I have no doubt we will end up on the other side.”
The second set of games featured Winona State against University of Minnesota Duluth.
They won the first game 5-0, Duluth loading the bases in the top of the fourth inning. Larsen got two outs and fielded a comebacker to get a third out. By the end of the fourth inning, a sac bunt by first-year Shaye Witte moved junior Mariah Schultz and Van Zyl up a base, leaving the job to first-year Alison Nowak to bring everyone home. Larsen ended the game by pitching around a pair of hits.
The second game of the pair featured Kleman as pitcher, giving her the opportunity to take her third no-hitter of the season. The Warriors loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second, but the game stayed scoreless through the sixth inning. The Warriors finally scored in the seventh inning, taking the game 1-0.
In the Friday games, the Warriors beat the St. Cloud State University Huskies in two games. The score of the first game was 5-0. By the bottom of the second, the Warriors had loaded the bases, however they ended the inning with no score. Van Zyle and Larsen both hit singles at the bottom of the third.
Before the third inning had ended, the Warrior were up 2-0. Larsen pitched the entire game.
“The season has been going fantastic so far and our record shows it,” Larsen said. “The team is gelling along really well this season and I couldn’t be happier as an upper classman. We have started off conference with a great start and I can’t wait to see how it shapes up in the next couple weeks.”
The Warriors took the second game 3-0. Nowak started the scoring for the Warriors with a homerun, putting them up 1-0. Kleman allowed only one hit for the first four innings. First-year Megan McCabe claimed second on a sac bunt, and came home to score in the fourth inning.
After winning four games and losing two in the week, Van Zyl reflected on the season.
“I don’t think we have faced any big external challenges this season. We have had some injuries that have changed the lineup, but nothing season altering. I think our team could agree that our biggest challenge is always ourselves,” Van Zyl said. “It doesn’t matter who we are stepping on the field against, our fiercest opponent is ourselves every time. I have no doubt that on our best day, we could beat any team that you put in front of us. The challenge comes when we aren’t having our best day, and we individually and collectively have to find a way to overcome that and find a way to pull out the win.”
The team is 35-8, 16-2 in the NSIC right now, with the NSIC tournament coming up in less than a month.
“I think our goals remain the same as they have all year, play our style of softball and good things will happen. With the amount of seniors we lost last season, no one expected us to be in the running. But here we are and I know this team will be playoff contenders,” Larsen said about the rest of the season.
Kleman shared what the team’s goal for the season was.
“Our goal this season is to be the best we can be each and every day we get the opportunity to play,” Kleman said.
The team has five days of games left before the NSIC Tournament which runs May 4 through 6.
“Our team plays in the moment. We don’t neglect to think about the future or what is in store for us, but we have found that if you’re thinking ahead to what is to come, there is no way you can be focused on the present moment,” Van Zyl said.