PITTSBURG, Kan. — On Thursday, Al Ortolani Field was blanketed in snow.
On Friday, Pittsburg State baseball opened its home portion of the season in 40-degree weather against Winona State.
Unfortunately for the Gorillas (1-4), their bats were just as cold as the temperature, falling 3-2 to the Warriors (1-0) in the first of a three-game series.
“We shoveled the lot (Thursday) to get this opportunity to play,” second-year Pittsburg State coach Bob Fornelli said. “I am proud of my guys for coming out here and working without whining about it.
“There are a lot of things we still have to work on. I am not happy with where we are at right now, but we just have to continue to battle. It’s a long season. We have played five games, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.”
Winona State took the early lead after Zac Stange led off the game with a walk and came around to score on a single to right field by Andrew Pliner.
The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a run-scoring single up the middle by Nick Herbst, plating Nick Nalewanski, who drew a one-out walk.
“We just got behind in counts and walked too many guys,” Fornelli said. “Their first two runs were from walks that came around to score.”
Pittsburg State had several chances early to get on the board. The Gorillas had runners at first and third with no outs in the bottom of the second, only to see a strikeout, infield popup and another strikeout end the frame without any damage done. A leadoff triple by Greyson Pinkett in the fourth inning was followed by a strikeout and two flyouts to again snuff out the Gorillas’ chance to cut into the lead.
“I think it was in the second inning when we had first and third with nobody out and we didn’t get it done,” Fornelli said. “Then, two innings later, we hit a triple to lead off the inning and don’t get it done. That changes the whole game. Not only because of the runs later in the game, but it changes the momentum in the dugout, too.”
In total, Pittsburg State was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Winona State added a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Sam Kohnle to make the score 3-0.
Pittsburg State's Ryan Koval tripled to center field with one out in the seventh and scored on a Austin Bonnel sacrifice fly to trim the deficit to 3-1. Bonnel later came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Pinkett to cut the margin to one.
Aaron Mutter earned the win, pitching five scoreless innings on three hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Bailey Banaszynski and Justin Firpo worked in relief, while Nicolas Herold earned the save in one scoreless inning, walking two and striking out three.
Tanner Lane, a Webb City product, took the loss after allowing two runs on four hits, four walks and a strikeout in three innings.
Koval and Colton Marion, a Neosho product, led Pittsburg State with two hits each.
With rain possible on Sunday, Pittsburg State and Winona State wrap up the series with a doubleheader today, starting at noon.