by DAVID ALBRECHT
After running the table during the conference regular season, it comes as no surprise to see Winona State University handsomely rewarded for its efforts with the announcement of the 2019 NSIC All-Conference Team & Awards.
After winning back-to-back regular season conference titles for the first time in program history, Jordyn Kleman has been named the NSIC Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season and Lani Van Zyl repeats as NSIC Player of the Year. Kleman joins WSU/NSIC Hall of Famer and current coach, Cyndy Jones, as the second time-two Pitcher of the Year while Van Zyl becomes the first Warrior in program history to earn Player of the Year honors twice.
Skipper Greg Jones has also been named the NSIC Coach of the Year for the second straight season and fourth time in his 19-year Warrior tenure. Jones guided Winona State to a perfect 30-0 regular season conference record – setting a new NSIC record for wins.
Additionally, Liz Pautz was named the NSIC Newcomer of the Year for her dominance in the circle.
The Warriors, who rank second among all Division II teams in fielding percentage, were also recognized for their fine defensive work with Gold Gloves for Van Zyl (SS) and Ann Smolenski (3B).
The complete list Warriors of First Team All-NSIC honorees includes: Kleman (P), Pautz (P), Van Zyl (SS), Smolenski (3B), Alexis Kelsey (1B) and Alison Nowak (DP).
Kleman (24-1) leads the NSIC in wins and opponent batting average (.165), and ranks third in ERA (1.59) and strikeouts (183). The junior right-hander threw two no-hitters this year, adding to her remarkable program record of seven in her career. Kleman’s win total ranks fourth in Division II and she ranks 10th in the country in hits allowed/7-inn. (4.01). Kleman was named the NSIC Pitcher of the Week five times during the 2019 campaign. She is now a three-time All-NSIC First Team recipient after also being named the 2017 Freshman of the Year prior to 2018 Pitcher of the Year honors.
Van Zyl leads the NSIC in batting and is currently on pace to break her own WSU single-season record set last year with a .484 average. The senior shortstop also leads the league in OBP (.545), ranks second in hits (75), third in slugging (.781) and doubles (16). She solidified her second straight Player of the Year honor by hitting .696 (16-for-23) with six homers and 13 RBI over the final eight games of the Warriors’ 30-0 run through the regular season. Van Zyl ranks ninth in Division II in hits, 11th in batting average and 14th in total bases (121). She is also a two-time Gold Glove winner after previously earning the distinction in 2017.
Pautz (17-2) owns an eye-popping 0.74 ERA this season with 185 strikeouts over 122.1 IP. The UW-Green Bay transfer leads all Division II pitchers in K/7-inn. (10.6) and ranks second in the country in ERA. Pautz leads the NSIC in ERA, ranks second in strikeouts and third in opponent batting average (.185). The sophomore hurler has recorded 17 appearances with zero earned runs and totaled six double-digit strikeout outings. Pautz’s two losses this year have been 1-0 setbacks against regionally-ranked teams in which she gave up one earned run over 13.2 IP.
Kelsey earns All-NSIC honors for the first time in her career after missing her first two seasons due to injuries. The slugging first baseman is batting .386 with 10 homers and 50 RBI. Kelsey’s 41 RBI over 30 NSIC games were the most during league play.
Nowak joins Kleman as a three-time All-NSIC First Team recipient. The junior leads the NSIC in homers (14), ranks second in slugging (.795), third in RBI (57), fourth in hits (68) and fifth in batting average (.436). Nowak ranks 10th in Division II in total bases (124) and is 12th in RBI.
Smolenski is a first-time Gold Glove and All-NSIC honoree. The sophomore third baseman has put up career highs in average (.411), hits (60), doubles (11), homers (6) and RBI (31). Smolenski ranks seventh in the NSIC in batting average which included a .429 mark during conference games.