CHAPEL HILL — The pitchers changed and some runs scored, but the lead never left the Elon University side of the scoreboard.
That is, until the ninth inning at Boshamer Stadium April 16. Trailing 4-2, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scored three runs with the help of two Elon errors in the bottom of the ninth to win, 5-4.
The inning began with an infield single and an error on Elon third baseman Nick Zammarelli to put two runners on. A throwing error on the ensuing play let a run in and put two runners in scoring position for North Carolina.
A sacrifice fly by second baseman Wood Myers tied it. Two walks later, the bases were loaded for third baseman Landon Lassiter, who roped a 3-2 pitch into center field for the game-winning run.
“For eight innings, we did what we wanted and controlled the game,” Elon head coach Mike Kennedy said. “You have to make a play. It’s unfortunate.”
Elon had failed to score with runners at the corners and nobody out in the seventh and didn’t capitalize on a leadoff double in the eighth either. The Phoenix left eight runners on base.
“It’s easy to look at those plays in the ninth because if you make them, you win the game,” Kennedy said, “but you never know what run is going to beat you. And we left some runs out at third base.”
Senior Ryan Pennell takes the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) in the ninth on 25 pitches. It’s his first blown save of the year and the first time in 24 games Elon lost after leading through eight innings.
“It was so exciting coming in having the lead for most of the game,” sophomore catcher Danny Lynch said. “I was pretty positive about our bullpen coming in, but a couple of things didn’t go our way. It’s unfortunate.”
Elon used nine pitchers, the most it has all season. Junior Jake Stalzer started, tossing four shutout innings. Junior John Antonelli worked a scoreless fifth, before freshman Dimitri Lettas let two runs in during 0.1 of the sixth. He was relieved by Brandon Kacer, who didn’t allow a run in 0.2 innings.
Matt Harris threw a scoreless seventh before it took three guys to get through the eighth.
Elon got on the board first in the second inning when freshman Tucker Norton doubled to right and came around on an error.
In the fourth, a two-out rally put Elon ahead 3-0. Lynch walked and junior shortstop Andy Moore singled to right. Zammarelli brought them home on a single through the left side.
North Carolina scored two runs in the sixth inning. A leadoff walk set up second baseman Wood Myers for an RBI double to left field. He then scored on a single by third baseman Landon Lassiter.
Elon junior left fielder Casey Jones doubled in the fifth inning to extend his career-high hitting streak to 23 games.
UNC freshman Spencer Trayner gets the win after working two scoreless innings at the end of the game. A.J. Bogucki started on the hill for the Tar Heels, going 3.2 innings in which he allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits.
Elon is 23-14 on the season, and will look to regroup with a home Southern Conference series this weekend with Appalachian State University.