While it wasn’t the prettiest of games, it still says something that perhaps the most intriguing part of it was the aftermath.
After a 4-2 loss to Liberty University at Latham Park March 11, Elon University head coach Mike Kennedy spent more than 15 minutes talking to his team in the outfield.
Topic discussed included errors, mental mistakes and the team morale.
Elon committed three errors and three of the four runs it allowed were unearned. There were also other miscues, including a baserunning blunder that nearly ended a rally.
“If we take care of a couple plays and limit mistakes,” Elon freshman left fielder Danny Crowe said, “it probably puts us in a better position at the end of the game then trying to make a late comeback.”
The Phoenix was playing its fifth game in four days after a weekend trip to Coastal Carolina University for a tournament. Errors hurt, but so did a lack of timely hitting. Elon loaded the bases in the ninth with one out, but failed to get a run across.
“We play defense, we probably win that game,” second baseman Sebastian Gomez said. “We didn’t have the right approach at the plate. All game, they were throwing soft, soft, soft late in the count. We couldn’t get a late hit or make an adjustment.”
In the ninth, Gomez and sophomore designated hitter Danny Lynch both singled to start the inning for Elon. David Lowrey entered as a pinch-runner for Lynch, and freshman Nick Zammarelli came on to pinch-hit but struck out. Junior Chris King, pinch-hitting as well, hit a towering fly ball to center but an error allowed him to reach. Lowrey almost past Gomez on the bases, but avoided that to keep the bags full.
Strikeouts by freshman Tucker Norton and junior Wil Leathers ended the game.
“With two strikes, our at-bats weren’t competitive,” Kennedy said. “We have to pay attention in the dugout and watch how he’s addressing other guys. At times, we didn’t do that.”
Sophomore Tyler Manez (0-3) takes the loss for Elon after 3 2/3 innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits. He worked out of bases loaded jams in both the second and third innings.
“We want him to get some confidence,” Kennedy said. “He got some zeroes up there, but his pitch count got up pretty quick. He has to get aggressive early in the count.”
With Crowe on second, junior Quinn Bower on first and two outs in the third, Elon went up 1-0 on a Casey Jones single to left that scored Crowe. Jones was picked off by Liberty starter Jared Lyons during the ensuing at-bat, though.
Liberty (12-6) pulled ahead in the fourth, knocking Manez out of the game. After a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position, Will Shepherd brought home a run on a groundout. A throwing error by Wil Leathers allowed Nick Lacik to score, and Manez was pulled after that.
The Flames extended that lead in the seventh on a 2-RBI double from Danny Grauer. The runs were charged to freshman Dimitri Lettas, who was pulled in favor of Grant Fisher prior to Grauer’s at-bat.
Crowe drove in Chris Hall on a single to left field in the seventh for Elon.
Liberty’s Lyons (2-0) went seven innings for the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with six strikeouts. Ashton Perritt earned his sixth save, pitching a scoreless ninth.
“We can’t give up,” Gomez said in reference to Kennedy’s postgame speech. “In the fifth inning, down one, we had guys pouting. We’re not little kids. We’re men now. That’s unacceptable.”
Elon falls to 11-6 on the season and will host Georgia Southern University in a three-game weekend series March 14-16 at Latham Park.