UNCP softball honored its six seniors on April 14 as the team’s comeback efforts fell just short in the team’s 8-4 and 9-6 losses to Augusta.
Seniors Jamie Johnson, Taylor Gerhart, Carleigh Brooks, Haleigh Epperson, Lexie Coxe and Toni Nelson were all recognized before the game for their contributions to the softball program as the team got set to play their penultimate contest at UNCP softball field.
Senior Day was originally set to be the final home contest of the season before multiple contests on the Braves’ slate were rescheduled. Despite the changes, emotions still ran high for the Braves throughout the day as parents and friends were present to show support for the seniors.
Nelson remained upbeat, but still spoke about the reality of a stellar career nearing its end.
“At the end of the game, I got a little emotional cause I’m not gonna be playing here anymore. It’s sad,” Nelson said. Nelson also flourished postgame about some of the Braves’ finer moments during her career, highlighting UNCP’s 2016 first-round conference tournament win over Georgia College as her favorite moment.
The senior catcher was only a sophomore then, but she hit the second of the Braves’ two home runs in the first inning of that game to help secure a victory and a lifelong memory for the team. Even though she was a part of many great on-field moments during her career, Nelson didn’t hesitate when pointing out her teammates as the thing she will miss most when her career as a Brave ends.
“Definitely the girls. 100 percent. They’re like my family, I’m going to miss them a lot,” she said. Softball head coach Brittany Bennett spoke about her senior class, the first that she has coached for their entire careers, after the games.
“I just love each and every one of those [girls] to death. They’ve been through good, they’ve been through bad. All six of my seniors, they mean so much to this program and they mean so much to me. I couldn’t be any prouder of them. They’ve put it all on the line, they’ve done everything they can to be successful and it’s all I can ask for,” Bennett said.
Freshman Mary Sells prepares to take a swing.
Photo by Trevon Knight
The Braves’ seniors put together a strong performance during the Senior Day doubleheader as Johnson drilled her seventh home run of the season in the first contest. Coxe scored a run and had a pair of hits in the first game, while Epperson also logged two hits including a two-RBI triple.
Gerhart tallied an RBI single in game two, and Nelson notched a career-high four RBIs in the second game and hit a home run of her own. Underclassmen also shined during the doubleheader.
Freshman pitcher Breezy Yelton allowed only one run on three hits during relief duty in game one, and she pitched four straight scoreless frames to bring the game to extra innings in a comeback effort for UNCP that fell just short. Freshman Mary Sells lead the Braves’ offense in game two along with Nelson, going 4-for-5 at the plate and driving in a run.
Bennett felt that her team outhit Augusta despite the loss, and she said she was proud of their determination despite being down early. Bark at the Park also highlighted a day of festivities at UNCP Softball Field.
Fans were encouraged to bring their dogs to the game and enter a raffle for a chance to win six months of free food for their pet, donated by Purina to UNCP. Dogs of various breeds and sizes accompanied their owners to enjoy a sunny day at the field.
One owner who brought two dogs to the game, Marley and Gizmo, applauded UNCP for the idea after the game. “It was very family-friendly, even for the four-legged ones. I think my little ones enjoyed it,” she said.
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