Greg Jones knows how talented his pitching staff is.
The 19-year Winona State softball coach has the pleasure of handing the ball to Jordyn Kleman — who has six career no-hitters as a junior — and Liz Pautz — who pitched at Division I University of Wisconsin-Green Bay last season as a freshman.
So far this season they have allowed 37 earned runs in 212 innings. That’s a combined 1.22 ERA.
With those two in the circle, Jones and company know if the bats aren’t going, Kleman and Pautz will put up zeros until they find that offensive rhythm. And when they do, it’s game over.
This was the case on Tuesday. The Warriors had trouble getting things going against Concordia-St. Paul, but Kleman and Pautz delivered. Kleman allowed just three hits across seven shutout innings before Carly Kordich won the game with just the Warriors’ third hit delivering a single that scored Makenna McCarthy to give WSU a 1-0 win.
In game two, Pautz didn’t have her best day, but she was effective enough, allowing three runs in five innings while the Warriors’ bats woke up with a vengeance scoring 10 times in the fourth inning to defeat the Golden Bears 11-3 in five innings.
The two-game sweep of the Golden Bears (22-18, 9-11) gave the No. 17 Warriors (35-5, 20-0) their 20th-straight win, tying a school record set in 2014.
Kleman set the tone right away, retiring the day’s first 12 hitters in order before Hannah Carlson led off the fifth with a bloop single. Jones thought she had some of her better stuff today.
“I think she threw a little bit better than her usual self,” Jones said. “Jo has great numbers, the strikeouts, the no-hitters, the shutouts, she makes for a great story line, but what she does well is she just grinds. You never know on any given day what her best pitch is going to be and she has a full repertoire to work with and today I thought she really controlled everything and got ahead into counts. She had really good pace and I just thought that was one of her better outings all year.”
Kleman struck out nine while only walking one. Since allowing seven earned runs against Augustana on the ninth, Kleman has allowed just five hits and zero runs while striking out 25 in 18 innings.
“I have just been trying to take it one game at a time,” Kleman said. “After giving up a bunch of runs that day, I just really wanted to shut it down. Show my team that we can shut people out and hold them down and let the (our) offense score runs.”
But that last part proved to be tough for the Warriors. Concordia-St. Paul starter Kali Kaestner had it working. Jones noted the Warriors had trouble with the pace and aggressiveness that Kaestner was pitching with. Her ability to pitch up to righties and to stay away from lefties gave the Warriors fits at times. She allowed just one hit through six innings.
“Against righties, it was a lot of up, up, up (in the zone) and then we were getting under it,” catcher Rylee Stout said. “To the lefties she was pitching outside and we just weren’t making the adjustments.”
Finally in the seventh, the Warriors broke through.
Ann Smolenski laced a single to center to lead off. After a sacrifice by Stout, Kaestner retired Jen Giesey which brought Kordich up to the plate, who ripped 1-0 fastball in the left-center gap to bring in the winning run.
In game two, the Golden Bears took a 3-1 lead thanks to a fourth inning two-run double off of Pautz. But that lead would be short lived. The Warriors responded with a 10-run bottom of the fourth that was highlighted by a grand slam from Stout that gave Winona State a 6-3 lead at the time.
“I had been pretty under the ball the whole game,” Stout said. “First game, popped up twice. Second game, popped up the first at-bat. So I was thinking more line drive, hit it into the gap, but it just happened and it felt good.”
In all, the Warriors sent 17 people to the plate in the frame.
“Were a rhythm team,” Jones said. “Always have been. We talk about hitting as a team and don’t feel like it’s your at-bats, it’s our at-bats. Every inning three people get to hit. If somebody gets on, now four people get to hit. When we start feeding off of each other it really moves pretty quickly.”
“Nothing can stop us when we get going,” Stout said. “We just keep the line moving, someone starts it and it just keeps going.”