Mountaineers stumped by Cajuns on senior day


The Appalachian

Game 1: 21-5 loss (Five innings)

Before the first of two games against the No. 9 nationally-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Saturday, App State softball’s six seniors were gathered around head coach Janice Savage to celebrate senior day in Boone.

“We’re creating family here,” Savage said. “Those ladies have been a huge part of changing the culture of our program and I have to give them so much credit for their character, having a struggling year in the wins and losses column, but still doing the right things off the field and still performing for me and believing in what we’re doing.”

Senior outfielder Dani Heichen was one of the six players who were honored before the games. Even though her collegiate softball career is coming to a close, she said that she is still on a mission to compete in the games she has left.

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Senior infielder Cynthia Gomez prepares for an oncoming pitch against UT Arlington March 29. Gomez and five other seniors were honored during senior day this past Saturday before facing No. 9 Lafayette. Photo: Gerrit Van Genderen | The Appalachian

“I’m just trying to go all out and doing everything I can to try and win us some ballgames,” Heichen said.

The Ragin’ Cajuns did a good job of spoiling senior day, however, coasting to a 21-5 win in Boone.

The Mountaineers held the Ragin’ Cajuns scoreless in the first inning but the zero on the scoreboard did not last long as Lafayette scored a run in the second and then added seven more in the third. In preparation for the game, Savage insisted that the Mountaineers had nothing to lose, telling her team that everybody expected the No. 9 team to run up the score.

After sustaining the third-inning push by the Ragin’ Cajuns, the Mountaineers battled back with help from a two-run homer from senior catcher Sarah Warnock.

Heichen was wone of the few bright spots in the first game for App State, with two hits and a run on the afternoon.

“Knowing that their first pitch is going to be their best pitch, I tried to hit the first-pitch strike,” Heichen said. “I tried to hit it in the beginning of the count and good things happened.”

After the two-run inning by the Mountaineers, Lafayette put the game away, scoring two runs in the fourth and 11 more in the fifth.

App State scored three more runs in the bottom of the fifth, but the game was then called due to the run rule.

“When we showed up we were in a little bit of shell-shock,” Savage said. “When you tell your team you’re playing the No. 9 team in the nation, who is second in the nation in home runs, it’s kind of ‘Oh, what do they have. We don’t know them. We haven’t seen them.’ So in that regard, my whole team are freshmen.”

Game 2: 23-6 loss (Five innings)

Despite a motivational talk from Savage after the series-opening loss, the Mountaineers fell short again in game two, losing 23-6.

“I just told them ‘Hey, don’t let them come to your field and intimidate you,’” Savage said. “’You have nothing to lose here. All the pressure is on them, because they’re the one that’s supposed to perform. They’re the ones that are supposed to do it. Not us.’”

The pressure did not seem to bother the Ragin’ Cajuns, though, as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead with their first four batters. Appalachian then countered with two runs of their own in the second inning to tighten the gap. Lafayette then put up three runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth inning to stretch the lead out to seven.

However, the Mountaineers did not back down.

They scored four more runs in the bottom of the fourth, including a three-run homer by sophomore infielder Katie Mathewson.

“When I get up there, I try not to think about anything,” Mathewson said. “Today, I just felt really in the zone, especially during that at-bat. After swinging at that change-up, I was like ‘Nope. She’s not gonna get me again.’ I just zoned in, saw the pitch, and focused on what I had to do.”

After rounding the bases, Mathewson was then hugged by Savage.

“She is a phenomenal young lady who has put in countless extra hours, who has put in nothing but being unselfish for her team this whole year,” Savage said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better kid. I was excited for her, and to put it half way up Sofield was even better. We needed it.”

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the visitors then ran away with the game. The Ragin’ Cajuns poured on 14 runs in the top of the fifth, five of which were driven in by Lafayette’s all-American catcher, Lexie Elkins, who hit two home runs in the inning.
In both games combined, Elkins had eight hits, 13 RBI and five home runs.

“That’s probably the second time in our history that we’ve faced an all-American,” Savage said. “Those kids just show up. When it’s time and when the lights go up, they perform and she did that.”

The game was called after the fifth inning due to the run rule with a final score of 23-6. Even though the Mountaineers were not able to upset the Ragin’ Cajuns, they fought hard against one of the nation’s best teams, which Savage said is something to build on.

“As long as you come out and you fight, I don’t care what the score is,” Savage said. “When they leave here, you want them to be able to say ‘That team didn’t roll over.’ That was my goal.”

Story: Colin Tate, Sports Reporter
Photo: Gerrit Van Genderen, Managing Editor