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A look ahead to the 2024 App State softball season

Leah Matney
Pitcher Delani Buckner practices throwing her curveball. Catcher, Riley Becker, has to set up in a specific way for this pitch to be thrown.

With returning talent and the addition of promising freshmen on both sides of the field, the 2024 App State softball team looks to improve on the 23-28 record they posted last season. 

The Black and Gold bring an experienced group in this season with 16 of their rostered players being upperclassmen. 

Junior outfielder Kayt Houston and graduate student catcher Taylor Thorp will be relied on for consistent hitting as they are the only returning Mountaineers to have a batting average over .300 in 2023. 

“Kayt and Thorp are both on our leadership board,” said head coach Shelly Hoerner. “They’ve been here, they understand what the coaching staff wants, what the standards are and they exemplify what those standards are.” 

Senior utility player Sidney Martin and junior catcher Kylie LaRousa will also be counted on to bring in runs, as last season Martin racked up 23 RBI’s to LaRousa’s 18.

Freshman shortstop Grace Barret and freshman third baseman Macy Hamby will have opportunities to make an impact with their batting and defensive abilities. 

“They’ve got the talent, they’ve got the tools, they’ve got the mind,” Hoerner said. “We’ll really look for them to do some big things for us.” 

App State’s pitching core remains strong as junior Sejal Neas along with seniors Kaylie Northrop and Delani Buckner all return after posting ERA’s lower than 3.40 last season. 

Freshman Ava Beamesderfer and Jenna Samuel come in with potential to raise the bar for Mountaineer pitching. Beamesderfer earned two YAIAA Division I Pitcher of the Year awards in high school while Samuel finished her career with 355 strikeouts. 

Infielders gather around coach Shane Showalter to discuss defense situations. During this preseason practice the team worked thoroughly on fielding ground balls on Jan. 31, 2024. (Leah Matney)

The Black and Gold looks to improve in conference play this campaign as the 2023 season saw them finish last in the Sun Belt standings with a conference record of 4-18. 

“The biggest thing for me is, yes we’re here to win, we’re here to win championships,” Hoerner said. “One off year is not going to deter us from doing that.” 

The team begins conference play March 15 with a three-game series at Georgia State. 

The Mountaineers have an eight game home streak beginning March 28 and wrapping up April 9. This stretch will see the team compete in a three-game series against both last season’s first and second Sun Belt seeds in Louisiana and South Alabama. 

App State looks to repeat their out of conference success after going 19-10 against non Sun Belt opponents last season. Notable non-conference games for the Mountaineers include a team coming off a 37-22 season in UNC Greensboro on March 13, and matchups with ACC powerhouse NC State Feb. 25 and March 6. 

Following a season spent as volunteer assistant of the program, Nicole Bowman was promoted this summer to assistant coach. She will be responsible for coaching hitters and outfielders, while also assisting with recruitment. 

Hoerner and assistant coach Shane Showalter are each returning for their seventh seasons with the Mountaineers, with Showalter’s focus being primarily on hitters. Assistant coach Natalie Ruechel fills out the coaching tree as she returns for her third season overseeing the pitching staff.

“Something our staff really does a good job at is connecting in different ways with every player,” Hoerner said. “I think that’s what makes this program pretty special.”

The Mountaineers will begin their season in Burlington Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. against Kent State. The matchup marks the first of the four-game Elon Tournament. 

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About the Contributors
Fran Murphy, Reporter
Fran Murphy (he/him) is a junior digital journalism major, english minor, from Asheville, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
Leah Matney, Photojournalist
Leah Matney (she/her) is a junior with a digital marketing major and photography minor from Lincolnton, NC. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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