Softball piles up 12 game win streak ahead of top three battle with Winona State

The No. 18 Minnesota State University, Mankato softball team extended their win streak to twelve this past weekend with wins over Sioux Falls, Northern State, and MSU Moorhead. The Mavericks faced each one of the schools in doubleheaders, helping the team collect six more wins in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference just two weeks ahead of the NSIC tournament. 

The Mavs first traveled to Sioux Falls this past Thursday for two games against the Cougars. Minnesota State scored first in both games which helped propel them to score runs inning after inning with no response from Sioux Falls. 

Senior Mackenzie Ward and sophomore McKayla Armbruster collected wins on the mound in their respective contests, and sophomore Madi Newman notched an RBI in both games to help the Mavericks collect two wins before returning home. 

Saturday’s game against the Northern State Wolves got out of hand quickly, with the Mavs pouring on seven runs in the first two innings to the Wolves’ none. Freshman Cheyenne Behrends got MSU on the board first, cracking an RBI double off her bat which was followed by two RBI singles to put the Mavs up 3-0 in the opening inning. 

The Mavericks tallied six more runs before the fifth, and only one run by the Wolves helped end the contest by run rule to give Minnesota State a 9-1 win in game one. Ward and NSU’s Meghan Anderson went back and forth on the mound, as the second game of the doubleheader remained scoreless through the fourth inning.

MSU’s sophomore catcher and infielder Sydney Nielsen helped break the scoreless tie in the fifth after hitting a drive into left field which resulted in an inside the park homerun. Ward retired six straight Wolves to claim her 23rd win of the year and help improve Minnesota State’s season record to 36-10.

The Mavericks returned the next day to face off against MSU Moorhead in their final doubleheader of the weekend, claiming two more wins. 

The Mavs started off game one with a run in the first inning, while claiming four more in the second and third innings. Moorhead got things rolling in the fourth with a run off an infield error by the Mavericks, but the Mavs were able to return to offense unscathed otherwise. 

Minnesota State turned it on in the fourth, pouring on 13 runs to claim an 18-1 lead heading into the fifth. With the run rule in effect, the Mavs shut down three straight Dragon batters to claim the first win of the doubleheader. 

Despite Moorhead finding the first run in game two, a combination of Ambruster and sophomores Kacy Nickerson and Katie Bracken allowed only two hits in 22 at bats to help MSU extend their win streak to 12 with an 8-2 win. 

Six wins this past weekend was not enough to surpass Winona State in the NSIC standings, but a two-game series against the Warriors is set for this Tuesday at the Maverick All-Sports Dome in Mankato. Because of reschedules and cancellations due to weather, the NSIC standings are ranked by percentage instead of record. 

Therefore Minnesota State’s 20-4 NSIC record is .017% behind Winona’s 17-3 conference record to split the teams into second and third in the conference only behind Augustana. However, the two will have a very important doubleheader this weekend to settle the near tie at second. The Warriors find a lot of their success from behind the plate, with two batters hitting over .400 this season.

Sophomores Abbie Hlas and Sam Keller find themselves on the list, hitting .466 and .421 respectively. Winona State also has solid pitching on the mound in the form of senior pitcher Liz Pautz.

Pautz has a 20-4 record in 23 games started and only allows a miniscule .199 batting average to opposing batters. 

The Mavericks have solid batting, however, and should be able to break through Pautz’s solid defense with a top to bottom lineup of batters hitting over .300. Sophomore Ellie Tallman leads the way for the Mav bats, hitting .404 to go along with 13 RBIs. 

The Mavs continue to have batters who hit over .300 down their roster, with seven more players surpassing the mark. Ward continues to be the defensive backbone for the Mavericks, who allows a miniscule .73 ERA and .149 batting average to opposing batters.

Ward has struck out 255 batters this season in 172.1 innings pitched.

Header Photo: Sophomore utility player Madi Newman is one of eight Minnesota State batters to average over .300 at the plate this season with a batting average of .344. Newman has batted in 22 RBIs this season on 48 hits, doing so in 151 at bats. (Maddie Behrens/The Reporter)

Write to Kole Buelow at kole.buelow@mnsu.edu.

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