The Elon University baseball team saw some mixed results both on the mound and at the plate in a three-game series with Appalachian State University that saw the Phoenix win two games out of three.
Elon rode an eighth inning home run by senior second baseman Sebastian Gomez to a 6-2 win in the first game, before a rough day on the mound for the Phoenix allowed Appalachian State to take the second 10-4, but Elon won the final game 4-2 behind a stellar outing by junior pitcher Jake Stalzer.
Gomez stepped to the plate with no outs in the eighth inning and runners at second and third. He was in the midst of an 0-for-11 slump, but he ended that when Elon needed it most.
He belted a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall, breaking a tie and putting the Phoenix in line for the win. Gomez said he wasn’t sure if it would go out when he hit it.
“I always feel like I have a barrier, I call it a gravitational field out there,” Gomez said. “Every time I hit the ball out there, it just stops. I don’t know why.
“I’m glad I put my team in a position to win today. All I was thinking on deck was ‘I’m 0-for-0.’ I was just trying to hit a sac fly, but hey, it works out.”
Junior outfielder Ryan Cooper had walked to start the inning, and junior outfielder Casey Jones followed that with a single. They both advanced into scoring position on the throw.
Already up 5-2, sophomore catcher Danny Lynch ripped a double down the left field line to give the Phoenix some insurance.
The win helped Elon bounce back from a gut-wrenching midweek loss to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in which the Phoenix blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning thanks to two errors.
“That might be the quietest bus ride we’ve ever had coming back,” Elon head coach Mike Kennedy said. “I thought we had a pretty good practice Thursday. It was short, but guys were pretty attentive.”
Elon had scored two in the third inning on an RBI groundout by Cooper and a sacrifice fly by Jones. Appalachian State tied it with runs in the sixth and seventh off a solo home run by Tyler Zupcic and a double by Tyler Stroup.
Junior pitcher Lucas Bakker went seven innings in which he allowed two runs on eight hits while striking out four, but freshman pitcher Matt Harris earned the win after tossing two shutout innings with four strikeouts.
Appalachian State 10, Elon 4
The Mountaineers burned Phoenix pitching by scoring nine of their 10 runs with two outs and recording nine of their 14 hits with two outs.
“It’s something we really focus on, not letting any get away from us,” junior reliever John Antonelli said. “That somewhat happened today. Late in counts, when we got the first two outs, we started nibbling a bit with pitches. They took advantage.”
Appalachian State’s Tyler Moore went all nine innings, throwing 138 pitches while allowing four runs (three earned) on 11 hits with seven strikeouts. Greensboro native and Northeast Guilford High School graduate Jaylin Davis tripled twice and drove in three runs.
Appalachian State scored seven of its runs in the first three innings. Davis’ triple in the first got things going, and a passed ball made it 2-0 Mountaineers after one. In the second, Stroup doubled home a run and Bradley Morton hit a two-out, two-run home run to make it 5-0.
Davis’ second triple, which barely stayed fair down the right field line, scored two more in the third.
“We just can’t quite get over the hump,” Kennedy said. “We’re doing some good things at times, but we’re not doing them enough on a regular basis enough where we can get on a pretty good streak.”
Elon scored one in the fourth on a double by junior designated hitter Chris King, and junior outfielder Quinn Bower singled in a pair during the sixth. Appalachian State added one more in the eighth and two in the ninth before a single by King plated one more for Elon in the ninth.
Sophomore Michael Elefante took the loss for Elon, lasting just 2.2 innings and surrendering five runs (four earned) on six hits. Antonelli came on in relief for five innings, the longest outing of his career, and gave up just two runs on three hits.
“We didn’t execute very well on the mound,” Kennedy said. “We left us out there on the field quite a bit. It comes down to making some pitches, and we didn’t pitch well tonight. It started early, and I don’t think it ever ended.”
Elon 4, Appalachian State 2
Stalzer had thrown four scoreless innings against North Carolina Wednesday, and he carried that stellar pitching into Sunday’s game. He was perfect through 3.2 innings, and went a full eight innings while surrendering just two runs on four hits.
Appalachian State plated the first run of the game in the fourth on a single, but Elon answered right back when junior Tyler McVicar doubled in a run during the bottom half of the frame. Bower then singled in a run during the fifth, and his brother and junior outfielder Blaine Bower singled in a another as Elon took a 3-1 lead.
Stroup then homered to right in the sixth, but Cooper doubled in a run in the bottom half of the inning.
Senior pitcher Ryan Pennell earned his 11th save of the season by tossing a scoreless ninth.
Jones recorded a hit in all three games to extend his hitting streak to 26 games, which is believed to be the longest in Elon’s Division I era. No formal records for hitting streaks have been kept.
Elon is 25-15 on the season and 11-7 in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix will travel to take on the University of North Carolina at Wilmington April 22.