Youthful Mountaineers begin 2022 softball season at Elon


Andy McLean

App State huddles up before its 2021 game against Texas State March 21.

Alex McCaskey, Reporter

App State softball opens the 2022 season Saturday with a four-game weekend tournament. The Mountaineers finished the 2021 season with a record of 27-19 and a conference record of 8-12.

Pitcher Kenzie Longanecker, outfielder Gabby Buruato and infielder Caylie Kifer finished their App State careers last season. Longanecker had an earned run average of 2.69 in 23 starts with 14 wins in 2021. Buruato drove in 17 runs and posted a .326 batting average last season, while Kifer appeared in 45 games, hitting one home run. 

New faces replace the outgoing production with nine freshmen joining the program. 

“The leadership in the youth, the energy that the young players bring every day. I think that’s huge for us,” said head coach Shelly Hoerner.

Catcher Baylee Morton returns to the program as a graduate student, and outfielder Mary Pierce Barnes returns for her senior season.

Morton was a big part of the offense last season, leading the team with eight home runs and 28 runs batted. Barnes finished the 2021 season with 35 hits and an average of 2.63. 

Senior Taylor Nichols and sophomore Delani Buckner return to the pitching rotation for the 2022 season. Buckner went 4-4 in eight starts with an ERA of 3.81 in 2021, while Taylor went 1-0 in five appearances with an ERA of 5.83.

“I’m back where I was, and I’m ready to go,” said sophomore infielder Emma Jones, who was sidelined much of 2021 with an injury, at the team’s media day.

The Mountaineers take on two ACC teams this year. The team’s first home game of the season is March 9 against Boston College. Later in the month, the Mountaineers travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. 

After the regular season, App State will travel to Mobile, Alabama, to play in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which takes place May 11-14.

“We’ve become super close as a team, and I think that energy is just really going to help us,” Morton said.

The Mountaineers open their fifth season under Hoerner at the Elon Tournament Feb. 12-13, where they will challenge Elon, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Saint Francis University twice.