ASU seniors lead Mountaineers to title
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The duo led the Mountaineers to their first title this season after the team put together a 17-7 conference record, 30-20 overall. Appalachian State earned a first-round bye in the SoCon Tournament, and at 5 p.m. today, the Mountaineers play Samford, which beat Elon 8-0 today in the first game of the tournament.
Both seniors played key roles in Appalachian State's rise to the top of the conference. Cashion, a Waxhaw native who prepped at Weddington High, was named the league's Player of the Year. She hit .362 with a team record 18 doubles and with 42 RBIs.
Smith tied Cashion for the team lead with eight home runs. Smith, a second baseman, hit .288, which was fourth on the team, and started all 50 games for the Mountaineers.
Both were brought in by former coach Amy Herrington in 2010, which was the first winning season Appalachian State had.
"Just being able to be able to leave a legacy here would be the best thing that could happen," Cashion said. "Just coming out with a ring and leaving her at App and leaving expectations for the other girls would be great."
Cashion started at right field her freshman season, moved to left field her sophomore year, then to center field her junior season before returning to left field this season.
"It was kind of good for me," Cashion said. "I came into the right position at the right time. I was not playing against any upperclassmen at the time, so I was able to fill my position as a freshman. I just worked from there and I became a better player over the next four years and I've been able to keep that spot."
Cashion's specialty is hitting doubles. She has a career school record of 51 doubles and an ASU career record of 369 total bases.
Cashion said she was unaware of the doubles record until she was ready to break it.
"It was crazy, because I didn't even know I was even close to getting that until I was one away," Cashion said. "It's something that you can't really think about it. You just have to go out there and play. It's going to happen if you just do that."
Smith, a Stafford, Va., native who prepped at Mountain View High, started in 29 of the 35 games she played as a freshman. Since then, she started in 147 straight games for the Mountaineers. Last season, she hit .363 with seven home runs.
"We rely on our offense," Smith said. "When we have our offense and our pitching going, it really helps out. I'm proud of all our hitters."
Smith also appreciates the history of the program and is proud to be a part of the first team to win a conference championship. She said seven freshmen were brought into the program in her class, but she and Cashion are the lone survivors.
Smith credited current coach Shea Wesley, the SoCon's Coach of the Year for 2013, for being able to stockpile talent to supplement the two seniors.
"Hopefully, it's the start of a new tradition for Appalachian," Smith said. "We had seven and now it's Allie and I. There are only two of us left, so she's bringing in some good players that helps the program. I'm so excited and so proud of all my teammates."
There was a time when the program, which is just 13 years old, struggled to win games at all. The first edition of Mountaineers, coached by Willie Rucker, did not have a home of their own. The team played games at Industrial Park and at the old Watauga High School until Red Lackey field, which served the Watauga baseball team, was converted into Sywassink/Lloyd Family Stadium.
Not surprisingly, it took time for the Mountaineers to establish themselves with their SoCon peers. The team went 13-36 overall, 4-13 in the SoCon, its first season.
The team started the season with a six-game losing streak, and won just three of its first 20 games before beating UNC Greensboro 2-0 in the second game of a doubleheader.
The team nearly had its first winning season in 2006 when it went 29-30 overall, 10-11 in the SoCon. But the Mountaineers regressed into an 11-37 record in 2008.
Herrington brought a winning season to the Mountaineers in 2010 when they went 27-25 overall, and their first winning SoCon season one year later when they went 15-7 in the league, 26-24 overall.
"Amy gave me a chance to play here," Smith said. "She was the person who gave me the opportunity. She helped me out financially and she's the one who got me here."
Wesley took the program to a higher level this season by winning the regular season championship. Up next is the SoCon Tournament, which begins today at UNC Greensboro.
"I think it's a good location for us," Cashion said. "We didn't play well there, but we know we're out for blood now. Some teams we didn't beat, such as UNCG and (Chattanooga), it's our time to see them again at the tournament."