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Kayt Houston
Kayt Houston became the career leader for hits and total bases
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Softball Drops Pair of Games at Purple-Gold Invitational

In the seventh inning of game 1 against Youngstown State, Kayt Houston’s one-out single notched her 200th career hit, making her just the fourth Mountaineer in program history to join the 200-hit club.

Despite Houston’s milestone, the App State Mountaineers (9-9) dropped a pair of close contests on Saturday at the Purple-Gold Invitational in Greenville. The Mountaineers jumped out to early leads in both games, but one big inning in each game helped both Youngstown State and Saint Joseph’s pick up wins.

The Mountaineers saw traffic on the basepaths throughout each game but couldn’t get the timely hits with runners on when they needed them. App State had a runner reach in six of the seven innings in game 1 and all seven innings in game 2, tallying 15 hits in the two games.

The trio of Sejal Neas, Kaylie Northrop and Jenna Samuel pitched well on Saturday, allowing just four earned runs and striking out 15 batters throughout the day. The pitchers made each hitter work as the pitching staff allowed just two walks across the two games.

Olivia Cook had a good day at the plate as she recorded two hits, one in each game, and drove home a run. Houston picked up three hits on the day and an RBI in game 2.

Game 1: App State 2 Youngstown State 5
The Mountaineers jumped out to a quick lead, scoring a first-inning run and a second-inning run, but a three-run fourth inning by the Penguins helped them pull away and claim the win in the first game. Kayt Houston recorded her 200th career hit in the seventh inning of the game, becoming just the fourth Mountaineer in program history to eclipse the 200-hit mark.

A single by Grace Barrett marked App State’s first hit of the game and a SAC bunt moved her into scoring position. The productive out by Peyton Darnell was immediately paid off as Taylor Thorp scorched a ball into center field to plate Barrett and the Mountaineers led after one.

Youngstown State took the lead in the bottom half of the first as it scored a pair of runs on one hit to capitalize on a lead-off single by Fessler. The Mountaineers limited the damage to just two runs in the second inning, which allowed the offense to step to the plate to answer.

Olivia Cook immediately fired back at the Penguin crooked number, smashing a double into the right-center field gap to put a runner in scoring position for the second straight inning. Addie Wray reached on an error and Abby Cunningham walked to load the bases with just one out. With the bases loaded, Houston’s patience at the plate helped draw a walk that tied the game up at two. It was Houston’s 18th RBI of the year.

With the game knotted at two, Sejal Neas went to work in the second inning and tallied a clean inning, feeding off the momentum generated by the offense. Neas recorded her first strikeout of the game in that inning.

The two teams scattered hits in the next inning, but an Ambry Lucas double started a rally for App State in the fourth as she tallied her first extra-base hit of the season. She would be stranded at second, but the Mountaineers continued to apply pressure on the Penguin defense.

Youngstown State took advantage of the scoreless inning from their defense and plated three runs in the fourth to take a lead, using four hits. Despite putting another runner in scoring position via a double in the fifth inning, the Penguin starting pitcher did well to keep the three-run lead after five.

Neas sat down the Penguins in order in the sixth, allowing her offense the chance to tie the game in the seventh. Kayt Houston’s 200th career hit gave the Mountaineers a baserunner and a pair of walks from Barrett and Thorp loaded the bases for the second time in the game, giving Killian Roberts a chance to tie it. Despite the traffic, Youngstown State stranded the bases loaded and secured a three-run win in game 1.

Game 2: App State 2, Saint Joseph’s 3
Acting as the home team in the nightcap, the Mountaineer defense went to work in the top half of the first and helped Kaylie Northrop work around a lead-off single to post a scoreless inning. Northrop worked from behind in the count to record her first strikeout of the game to end the frame.

App State capitalized on Northrop’s scoreless inning with two hits and a run courtesy of Olivia Cook’s RBI single. Houston led off the frame with her 201st hit and was advanced to second after a Thorp two-out walk. With a runner in scoring position, Cook stepped to the plate and shot a single into the right-center gap to plate Houston. App State scored first in both games on Saturday.

The Hawks used a pair of unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead after the second inning, but Northrop stranded a pair of runners in scoring position to keep the Hawk lead at 2-1 as App State came to bat. Looking to answer, Hannah Forbes, who made her first start of the year in game 2, singled up the middle to give the Mountaineers a one-out baserunner.

The Mountaineers put two runners in scoring position with two outs in the second courtesy of a Houston single, giving App State another chance to hit with runners on, but SJU starting pitcher Emily Siler forced a groundout to end the two-out threat.

Northrop bounced back to start the third inning, striking out the first batter she saw in the frame, but the Hawks were able to plate another run in the third to take a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the third, Olivia Cook drew a two-out walk, marking her second time aboard in the game, but was stranded.

The Mountaineers sat down the Hawks in order quickly in the fourth inning as Northrop racked up her fifth and sixth strikeouts of the game, which allowed the Mountaineer bats to come to bat looking to score. The Mountaineers immediately put two runners in scoring position for Houston who paid off a Cunningham SAC bunt with an RBI groundout to trim the deficit to just one after four.

An 11-pitch inning from Northrop and a nice play by Cunningham in left to nail a runner at second trying to extend a single sat the Hawks down in order in the fifth, recording the second straight scoreless frame for Northrop. The Hawks made a pitching change with the heart of the Mountaineer lineup due up and did well to keep their one-run lead as play progressed to the sixth inning.

The defense shined in the sixth inning as Northrop worked around two two-out hits and Cunningham gunned down a runner at the plate to end the inning to keep the deficit at one. Her assist from left field marked her second outfield assist of the game. Cunningham then provided the Mountaineers with a two-out baserunner in the bottom of the sixth as she stayed hot.

Saint Joseph’s went to their bullpen with two outs in the sixth inning and Houston due up and stranded a runner at first to take a one-run lead to the seventh. Jenna Samuel took over for Northrop in the seventh looking to keep the Hawks at bay and did just that, stranding a pair and picking up a strikeout.

App State put a runner in scoring position courtesy of a single by Darnell and a passed ball, but an outfield assist by the Saint Joseph’s left fielder cut down the potential game-tying run at the plate to end the game.