In what may become the final series between the Southern Conference heavyweights, Elon University and Western Carolina University split the first two games of a three-game series this weekend at Latham Park.
Elon took the first game 5-1 Friday after 7.2 stellar innings from junior Lucas Bakker, while Western Carolina won the second game 6-5 after a pair of late home runs.
Elon went behind 1-0 in the fourth after shortstop Aaron Attaway reached on an error and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Dykota Speiss. From there, the Phoenix scored three in the fifth and two more in the eighth to secure the victory.
In the fifth, Chris Hall started things off with a one-out single which was followed by a Chris King single. Andy Moore walked to load the bases, and a wild pitch scored Hall. King scored on a groundout by Quinn Bower, and Moore crossed the plate when Ryan Cooper singled to third base.
Elon added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth which began when Casey Jones doubled to left with one out and scored on a Sebastian Gomez single to center. After a wild pitch, Gomez scored on a passed ball.
Bakker, the two-time defending SoCon Pitcher of the Week, went 7 2/3 innings in which he allowed one run (not earned) on five hits with five strikeouts. Brandon Kacer and Ryan Pennell worked the final 1 1/3 innings to secure the victory.
Western Carolina 6, Elon 5
Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, Jacob Hoyle began the inning by driving a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right-center to tie the game. Hoyle again homered, this time with two outs in the ninth, to give Western Carolina the victory.
Elon took a 2-0 lead in the first after Bower and Cooper reached on walks to start the inning. Jones doubled to left to score Bower, while a Gomez groundout plated Cooper.
The Catamounts tied things up in the third after a home run by Dale Urquhart over the wall in left and a passed ball that scored Attaway after he singled to reach base. Elon answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on an error.
Western Carolina retook the lead in the fourth with a pair of runs. Taylor Sandefur hit a solo home run with one out in the inning, and the next two hitters reached base to force Elon coach Mike Kennedy to make a pitching change. With the bases loaded, a fielder’s choice gave the Catamounts a 4-3 lead.
The Phoenix came back in the bottom of the inning to tie it when Hall was hit by the pitch with the bases loaded. Elon then took the lead when Cooper walked with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Kacer takes the loss for Elon after allowing the home run to Hoyle, the only batter he faced. Jake Stalzer went 3 1/3 innings as the starter, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits.
The teams will play the rubber match at 12 p.m. March 23. The first pitch was moved up due to potential rain.