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Kayt Houston
Kayt Houston had two hits and a run scored.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Softball Drops Season Opener

Despite a two-hit night from Kayt Houston and a two-RBI night from newcomer Peyton Darnell, the App State Mountaineers fell 5-9 to the Kent State Golden Flashes in the 2024 season opener on Friday. The Golden Flashes broke out for a four-run first inning to jump ahead and never looked back.

The Mountaineers (0-1) had a stellar offensive night, tallying eight hits and five runs, led by Houston, Darnell and a pinch-hit double by Riley Becker. Freshman Grace Barrett also racked up her first career hit in the seventh inning while Macy Hamby drove in her first career run in the second. Olivia Cook reached base three times in her App State debut, drawing two walks.

Delani Buckner (0-1) started in the circle for App State, allowing five runs on six hits. Kaylie Northrop made her first appearance of the season and pitched well in relief, striking out four while allowing just five hits in 4.1 innings.

Kent State’s (1-2) hot start led them to the win. The Flashes saw four players tally multi-hit nights, while the team put up two multi-run innings to propel them to the win.

Darnell and the Mountaineer offense were able to chase Kent State’s starting pitcher Ella Esterby early, but Megan Nuechterlin (1-1) did well to quell the Mountaineer bats after Esterby’s early exit. Despite scoring two seventh-inning runs courtesy of RBI hits from Houston and Taylor Thorp, Macy Irelan recorded the last two outs to close the contest out.

App State’s night got started with a walk from Peyton Darnell, marking the first Mountaineer baserunner of the season. Esterby was able to strand Darnell at first, allowing the Kent State offense to come to bat where they scored four first-inning runs on four hits. The biggest blow of the inning came off the bat of Delaney Robeson who smacked a two-RBI double to make the score 4-0.

Cook reached base via an error and Sidney Martin recorded App State’s first hit of the year to start the second and put runners on the corners with one out. In her first collegiate plate appearance, Hamby delivered a sacrifice fly to plate App State’s first run of the year and trim the deficit to three.

In the bottom of the second, Alexandria Whitmore singled to lead off the inning, marking her second hit of the game. Two batters later, Bri Despines doubled Whitmore home for the Flashes’ fifth run of the game, chasing Buckner from the game.

The Mountaineers answered the Flashes’ strong start with a solid inning of their own in the third as Kayt Houston led off the inning and delivered a single to left field for her first hit of the season. After a Barrett flyout, Darnell stepped to the plate and sent a missile over the left-field wall, marking her first home run at App State. Darnell’s third-inning homer marks her 33rd career home run.

Kaylie Northrop continued her solid outing in relief in the fourth inning, striking out her second hitter of the game. But Kent State started a rally with a single and a hit-by-pitch to put runners in scoring position for the first time against Northrop. The Flashes’ sixth run came home courtesy of a wild pitch to make the score 3-6 after four.

The Flashes would score three more runs in the fifth to get to their final score of nine runs. Northrop was able to strand the bases loaded to end the fifth as she struck out her third and fourth batters of the night.

In the sixth, Olivia Cook reached base via a walk, marking her third time on base in her Mountaineer debut, but App State couldn’t get her home.

Down six in the seventh, the Mountaineers put together a rally that was sparked by Riley Becker, who delivered a one-out pinch-hit double to center. The Mountaineers would string together three straight hits in the seventh to plate their fourth run as Houston doubled into right-center to drive home Becker and Barrett delivered a single into left. The Flashes would make a pitching change with one out and Taylor Thorp made them pay immediately as she singled to drive home Houston to cut the Kent State lead to four. But with two outs, Irelan struck out Cook to end the threat and the game.

App State continues play at the Elon Softball Classic on Saturday with a doubleheader against Miami (Ohio). The Redhawks are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2023. First pitch in game one is set for 2:30 p.m.