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Houston caps off record breaking career for App State Softball

Leah Matney
Senior outfielder Kayt Houston tosses a ball in the air. Houston holds the school’s career hit record at 239.

Senior outfielder Kayt Houston is a few weeks away from wrapping up a historic App State softball career. 

Houston has earned numerous awards for her play on the diamond. As a sophomore, Houston was named to the All-Sun Belt first team and received NFCA All-Region honors, becoming the first player in program history to receive this honor. However, Houston is more focused on remaining grateful for the opportunities she has been given. 

“Obviously it is really nice to get those accomplishments, but it is more about having fun,” Houston said. “I just look forward to going to practice and playing games every day.” 

After her junior season, she was named to the All-Sun Belt second team and ranked top five in the conference in batting average, hits, doubles and on-base percentage. Houston does not linger on these accomplishments and takes a one-game-at-a-time mentality.

“I focus on one game at a time because you really never know what can happen,” Houston said. “One game you could be seeing the ball really well and then something will change and you won’t see it very well.” 

Head coach Shelly Hoerner reiterates this point. 

“It is not about anything other than that next game,” Hoerner said. 

Houston’s strong play as the leadoff hitter has allowed the Mountaineers offense to thrive. So far in her senior season, she has a .434 batting average. Houston’s batting average has increased each year and she attributes this success to her practice, but also to her teammates. 

“Staying relaxed and having fun with my best friends on the team really helps me out,” Houston said. 

 Hoerner has played a pivotal role in Houston’s success, having coached collegiate softball for over 25 years. She prides herself on being a players’ coach, and building individual relationships with each of her players while preparing them for life after softball. This has allowed for a strong bond between Hoerner and Houston. 

She often compares the game of softball to life lessons. This has allowed for players such as Houston to grow on and off the field. 

 Hoerner applauded Houston for how she has changed over the years as a player and a person.

 “If I look at Kayt Houston and how she was as a freshman and how she is now, she could handle hard way better than she could when she was a freshman,” Hoerner said. 

Houston has received strong praise from her fellow senior outfielder Abby Cunningham. 

“I think Kayt is like the picture-perfect teammate,” Cunningham said. “If anything, having her as my best friend can be even more.”

Cunningham also praised Houston’s strong leadership skills. She’s a spark on the field, and even when she is having a tough time at the plate she is there to keep her teammates motivated. 

Houston and Cunnigham focus on being leaders on and off the field for the younger players on the team. 

“Doesn’t matter if you’re a senior or a transfer or just a freshman, everyone is a leader in their own way,” Houston said. 

This philosophy is ingrained in the culture of the App State softball program.

“Just being a little bit older you already have some of that respect from the younger players, so it gives you a lot more confidence to speak up,” Cunnigham said. 

Houston was a part of the program’s first win against a ranked opponent when they defeated No. 23 Louisiana on the road on March 25, 2023. 

“The energy was something that was so incredible,” Houston said. “There is not really a feeling that you can compare it to.”

Cunningham had a huge role in the win as well. She recorded two of the final three outs to secure the win.

“I feel like everyone contributed to that game whether it was a walk or playing defense. I will never forget the energy we had that game,” Cunnigham said. 

As a senior, Houston focuses on having fun and taking in every moment, no matter how small. 

“I really focus on having fun and making sure I am not super stressed up to bat or even in the field, just staying even keeled,” Houston said. “Since it is our last year, our big mindset is just to encompass having fun and enjoying every single little moment because it is the last time, but we do not focus on it being the last time.” 

Hoerner commended Houston’s ability to remain composed through the ups and downs.

“She is a very positive person and doesn’t carry much negativity from one at bat to the next or one play to the next,” Hoerner said.

The idea of having fun is a team-wide aspect. They focus on enjoying the process, allowing the ability to power through difficult times. 

“We talk about as a team when you go back to why you started playing the game it was because you had fun,” Hoerner said. “When I came into the program seven years ago, I looked at that team and I said we will win and winning is fun.”

The team focuses on giving everything they have day in and day out for the person next to them. 

Houston plays a pivotal role in keeping a light hearted fun atmosphere but not taking away from the competitiveness and hard work needed to be a successful team. 

“If you give me all you have every single day I can’t ask for anything else,” Hoerner said. 

As the season nears an end, the team’s goal remains the same: to be selected as one of the 64 teams for the NCAA Division I softball tournament.

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About the Contributors
Max Schwanz
Max Schwanz, Reporter
Max Schwanz (he/him) is a freshman journalism major, business minor, from Cornelius, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
Leah Matney
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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