After more than 17 years as head baseball coach at Elon University, Mike Kennedy has seen a lot.
What he saw March 14 at Latham Park stood in a special place of its own.
In as good a pitcher’s duel as one could draw up, Elon junior Lucas Bakker outdid Georgia Southern University ace Sam Howard, tossing a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 Elon victory.
Bakker, this past week’s Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week, walked three and struck out seven, throwing 100 pitches in for his third win of the season. It’s the fewest hits Elon has allowed since giving up two to University of Akron in February 2012.
Bakker, a transfer from North Iowa Area Community College and a native of Australia, retired the game’s first 12 batters before a leadoff walk in the fifth. With a double play turned in that inning, he went the first six innings facing three batters in each frame.
His no-hit bid ended in the seventh with a bloop single to left center by Chase Griffin. Bakker walked the following two hitters to load the bases, but escaped the jam with a strikeout.
“I’m hitting my spots very well with my fastball,” Bakker said. “My fastball command is really good right now. As the game progressed on, my slider was getting better and better so that helped too. I was going in and out, hitting spots. That’s what happens when you make good pitches, you get good outs.”
The win marks the second consecutive complete game shutout for Bakker, who also went the distance in a 5-2 win against University of Minnesota last Saturday.
Georgia Southern came into the game hitting .345 as a team, tied for best in the nation. Bakker’s earned run average now sits at 1.27 on the year. Opponents are hitting .189 against him.
“That’s a Friday night guy right there,” Kennedy said. “He won’t do that every night, but he’ll give us a chance to win. That’s what you have to do on Friday night in this league. If you want to compete for a championship, you have to have someone to go up and match zeroes with a guy like that to give your team a chance to win.”
For Georgia Southern, Howard went seven innings allowing one run on four hits with eight strikeouts in a losing effort. He drops to 3-2 on the season with an ERA of 1.12.
“He’s one of the better arms we’re going to see in the conference,” Elon first baseman Casey Jones said. “He threw well. We battled with him. He made a couple of mistakes and we took advantage of them."
After six innings of zeroes, Elon scored the game’s lone run in the sixth inning. Jones reached on a two-out single to left center, stole second base, and came around to score on a single to center by Sebastian Gomez.
Jones, who is hitting .338, had two of Elon’s four hits on the day.
Elon moves to 12-6 on the season, 1-0 in the Southern Conference. Due to potentially inclement weather, the teams have rescheduled the rest of the series. They will now play a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. March 15.