Though it took two contrasting styles of play, the Elon University baseball team was able to win two midweek games and stretch its win streak to five games. The Phoenix defeated North Carolina A&T State University 10-2 on April 1 and Campbell University 2-1 on April 2.
The win over North Carolina A&T came as Elon put a combined nine runs on the board in the third and fourth innings combined to put the game out of reach. Freshman Nick Zammarelli led the way, driving in three runs.
Juniors Casey Jones and Tyler McVicar each drove in two runs as for Elon. The Phoenix had a couple wasted opportunities early, namely failing to capitalize on a bases loaded, one out scenario in the first inning. Three runners were caught stealing in the early innings.
“Coach talked about tightening down on the base running, just making sure we were being smart out there,” junior outfielder Quinn Bower said. “We tightened it down and let our hitters do the work at the plate.”
In the third, Elon loaded the bases with nobody out for senior second baseman Sebastian Gomez, who lined out to third base. But a throwing error on the third baseman — that hit off junior Ryan Cooper’s helmet and into the outfield — allowed a run to score. A walk loaded the bases for McVicar, who grounded out but brought a run in, and Zammarelli, who ripped a 2-RBI double to center field. Junior outfielder Blaine Bower followed that up with an RBI single to right field.
In the fourth, Jones singled in a run to get things going. An error on the catcher allowed another to score. Then, McVicar doubled in a run and Zammarelli had an RBI single to center to wrap up the inning
“For us to be good, you’re looking for guys up and down the lineup to produce and do some things for you,” Elon coach Mike Kennedy said. “If somebody else can step up and have a couple big days, and somebody the next day, etcetera, then you have a chance to be pretty good.”
Elon put the finishing touches on the win when Jones hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to drive in the 10th run. N.C. A&T scored its only two runs when Elon outfielder D.J. Paone dropped a fly ball at the wall in right field that would have been the third out of the inning.
Freshman Dimitri Lettas earned his first career win for Elon, tossing six scoreless innings in which he allowed just two hits. It was his first career start, something he didn’t know he’d be making until he saw his name online.
“I just saw my name on the website, and I’m just like, ‘All right, I guess I’m starting tomorrow,’” Lettas said. “I didn’t really have notification from the coach, but it is what it is.”
Lettas has made 10 appearances out of the bullpen this year and has a 1.77 earned run average in 20.1 innings of work.
“For a freshman, he’s been pretty good,” Kennedy said. “We’re pleased with where he’s at. His work habits have been getting better. You can tell he’s been locked in. Success can do a lot for you.”
Fellow freshman hurler Mike Krill went the final three innings to pick up his second save in just three appearances.
Against Campbell, the Elon offense wasn’t kicked into the same gear it was against North Carolina A&T. The Phoenix stranded 15 runners — many of them in scoring position — but found a way to win.
“When the bats aren’t going, you have to win the game another way,” senior pitcher Ryan Pennell said. “And that’s pitching and defense. We got the job done that way.”
Pennell was called upon in the ninth inning, as he got the final two outs for his eighth save of the year. Before him, it was sophomore Tyler Manez who put Elon in a good position. He went 5.1 innings without allowing a run and only throwing 48 pitches in picking up the win. Four other Elon pitchers threw as well.
“It’s our job as a staff to pick up the hitters,” Pennell said. “The hitter are going to pick us up eventually. It all comes around.”
Elon scored its first run in the third on an RBI single by Cooper. Blaine Bower and sophomore Danny Lynch had been moved into scoring position via a sacrifice bunt by Andy Moore.
The only other run came in the fifth inning. Jones walked and Gomez doubled to start the inning. After a pitching change, two walks and a strikeout, Lynch knocked a 1-1 pitch into center field, scoring Jones.
Campbell scored its lone run on a double in the eighth. Kennedy noted defense as “about all we did tonight” and how it has improved during the last few weeks, but will be tested this weekend at Samford University.
“That’s way we have to be to win games right now,” Kennedy said. “The challenge now will be is we go play on some dirt. We’re going to find a field to practice on and take a ton of ground balls. We might not swing a bat. We have to get used to that. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Elon sits at 19-10 overall, and 6-3 in the Southern Conference entering a weekend series at Samford. First pitch on Friday, April 4 is slated for 7 p.m.