Senior Kaitlyn Aherron broke the Averett softball program records for career home runs and RBIs with one swing as the Cougars split a nonconference doubleheader at Ferrum on Thursday evening.
Aherron’s milestone helped Averett beat Ferrum 15-7 in Game 1 before Ferrum rallied late to win the nightcap 5-3.
Aherron, of Alton, entered the day tied with Brooke Hensley for the program’s career mark with 23 home runs and one RBI behind Mary Beth Smith, who drove in 124 runs over her career. Aherron tied Smith with her RBI double in the third inning, which gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead. With the game tied 2-2 entering the fifth inning, Aherron came to the plate with one out and promptly crushed a pitch over the center-field wall to not only surge her team ahead on the scoreboard but also propel her into the Averett record book as the program’s career home run and RBI leader.
“I immediately knew it was over when I hit it, but the love and excitement I saw from my team made it 10 times more amazing,” said Aherron, who knew she had just set the home run mark but was unaware of the RBI record. “I’m so grateful God has given me the opportunity to play the sport that I love. This is a moment I will cherish forever, and I want to thank every person that has helped me become the ball player I am today.”
Aherron’s big hit was the start of a momentous inning for Averett (10-12), which later got a three-run homer from sophomore Lauren Nelson — her first collegiate homer — and an RBI triple from senior Mallory Griffiths to help the Cougars take a 7-2 lead.
Ferrum (11-13) gave the Cougars trouble in the bottom half of the fifth, scoring four runs to pull within 7-6. Junior Erin Rankin gave Averett some breathing room in the sixth with her two-run double, although Ferrum again answered with an RBI single to get back within 9-7 entering the final inning.
In the seventh, Averett loaded the bases for junior Anna Coleman, who drew an RBI walk. Rankin then hit a ball that got past the shortstop and rolled to the wall in left center, clearing the bases. Freshman Chloe Horton tacked on a two-run single to center as part of a six-run inning to help clinch the 15-7 win.
Aherron and Griffiths each had three hits in the Game 1 win as Averett totaled 18 hits as a team. Aherron also notched her first save of the season by pitching the final two innings of relief. Freshman Taylor Sullivan (4-2) earned the win, going four innings in the circle.
Averett looked poised to take Game 2 from Ferrum, but one off inning helped the Panthers avoid the sweep. The Cougars slowly built a 3-0 lead with an RBI single from junior Hannah Thompson in the third, an RBI double by Rankin in the fourth and an RBI double from Coleman in the fifth. However, Ferrum struck for five runs in the bottom of the fifth and held off Averett over the final two innings.
Coleman and junior Lauren Johnston each had two hits in Game 2 for Averett, which out-hit Ferrum 10-8 in the nightcap.