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Kayt Houston
Kayt Houston earned first team all-conference honors for the Mountaineers this season as well.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Softball Drops Opener to South Alabama

Matching up against South Alabama ace Olivia Lackie, Delani Buckner matched her pitch for pitch in the series opener, going 6.1 strong innings while striking out three hitters, but two Jaguar long-balls in the game would be all the offense they needed as they defeated the App State Mountaineers 3-0 on Saturday.

App State’s (15-17, 3-7 SBC) offense found the basepaths several times in the game, tallying four hits and two walks, but the Jaguars’ (19-14-1, 5-5 SBC) solid defense tightened up when the Mountaineers generated scoring chances to keep them stranded. The Jaguars stranded seven runners in the game.

Leading off the game, Kayt Houston stroked a single into right field to mark her 223rd career hit. Houston now sits six hits away from Lindsay Glover’s program record of 229 hits. Peyton Darnell also slugged a single off the right-center field fence to extend her team-high hitting streak to five.

Buckner hung tight all game in the circle, stranding seven South Alabama runners and keeping the Jaguars to just six hits. She struck out the first two hitters she saw to start her outing and worked five clean innings.

Taking the field on defense to open the series, Buckner and the Mountaineers stranded two runners in the first inning to keep South Alabama scoreless after one. The righty blew fastballs past two straight Jaguar hitters to start her game and forced a popout to keep the Jaguars quiet in the inning.

App State immediately found offense in the bottom of the first inning as Houston sent a single through the right side to tally a leadoff baserunner. South Alabama didn’t let Houston get past first base, however, retiring the next three hitters in order to keep it scoreless.

In the second, the Jaguars put another runner on board with one out, and a bunt single put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Regaining her composure, Buckner got ahead of the next hitter and forced a ground ball to third. Breaking on contact, the runner at third broke for home, but Olivia Cook fired a strike to Darnell at the plate to nail the runner and keep the game tied. Buckner forced a popout to end the threat as the Mountaineer fans rose to their feet.

The Mountaineers saw their first runner reach scoring position in the second inning as Addie Wray slapped a single into left and advanced to second on a fielding error. She would be stranded, but the defense picked up the offense in the third, putting up another zero.

South Alabama worked a scoreless third and used the momentum to plate the game’s first run and take a lead. Buckner bounced back nicely after the RBI hit and worked around a walk to keep the deficit at just one.

Looking to answer, Darnell led off the bottom of the fourth by smoking an 0-1 pitch off the top of the right-center field wall to spark a rally. With a runner on first, Taylor Thorp delivered a long fly ball into left-center field that threatened to drop but a running catch in center field took the hit away. South Alabama sat down the next two hitters to keep its lead after four.

Using a leadoff walk to start the fifth from Wray, the Mountaineers generated another scoring chance as Macy Hamby bunted Wray into scoring position. Despite another runner on, the Jaguars kept App State off the board, forcing a flyout to retire the side.

Making her way out to the circle for her sixth inning of work, Buckner hurled a scoreless sixth to cap off her outing, blowing away the last batter of the inning to end it. Thorp stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth and put a runner in scoring position after blasting a double into right field, but Lackie got the next two hitters out to send things to the seventh.

The Jaguars tallied a pair of runs to extend their lead to three courtesy of a homer in the seventh. Relieving Buckner, Neas did well to limit the damage after the homer, inducing a ground-ball double play to third to end the frame.

With one out in the seventh, Hamby reached base to start a rally, smacking a hard line drive that got through the shortstop’s legs to mark her first time aboard. She was advanced to second via a sac bunt, but the Jaguars retired the final hitter to claim a win.

App State will conclude its three-game set with South Alabama on Sunday with a doubleheader at Sywassink/Lloyd Family Stadium. First pitch in game 1 is scheduled for 11 a.m. with the second to follow approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+.