After getting swept by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and having its midweek game against Coastal Carolina University canceled because of weather, the Elon University baseball team took a step forward Friday night before regressing once again Saturday.
Going up against the Southern Conference’s best in Davidson College, the Phoenix won the series opener 8-5 before falling 9-2 on Saturday.
“You are what you repeatedly do,” Elon head coach Mike Kennedy said. “Maybe we’re average. We show a good day, then we’ll show a bad one.”
Elon 8, Davidson 5
Kennedy preached an attitude of “Play the game, not the score,” before the game, and it immediately came into play.
Davidson put up four runs in the top of the first, but Elon wasted no time coming back and holding on for the win.
“What I like most about (this game) is we got down early, and we could have easily rolled over,” Kennedy said, “but some toughness showed. We had some grit and determination, and that’s the biggest thing I’ll take away.”
Second baseman Andrew Pope tripled to start the game and scored on a single from first baseman David Daniels. Shortstop Sam Foy brought in a pair on a double to left, and third baseman Ben Arkin also doubled in a run.
But Elon answered with two in the bottom of the first on a two-run home run by junior first baseman Tyler McVicar, and that provided the spark to help the Phoenix respond.
Elon tied it in the fourth on a single by freshman third baseman Nick Zammarelli and took the lead when junior designated hitter Wil Leathers singled in a run in the fourth. Junior Andy Moore and McVicar also drove in runs in the fourth as Elon went up, 7-4.
“If we’re put in a hole, we can’t just put our heads down,” senior second baseman Sebastian Gomez said. “I’m glad we maintained our composure.”
Davidson left fielder Nathan Becker hit a solo home run in the fifth, and Elon junior left fielder Casey Jones singled in a run in the eighth.
With the bases loaded and two out in the seventh, Davidson catcher Daniel Gerow grounded out to second to end the inning, but that didn’t stop Wildcats left fielder Lee Miller.
Miller, at first base, ran right through second base and took out Moore, who was behind the bag and far away from the play at that point. Not many Elon players or coaches saw the incident, but Miller reportedly did not slide at all.
“I’m not sure how that’s a clean play,” Gomez said. “I don’t really understand that.”
Moore stayed in the game, but woke up Saturday morning with a headache and was not at Latham Park for the second game of the series.
“Baseball play, you slide,” Kennedy said. “That’s my opinion, and I’ll leave it at that. You don’t run through the bag at any point in time, unless you’re at first base.”
Elon junior Lucas Bakker took the win after going six innings and allowing five runs on 10 hits. Junior John Antonelli earned his first career save, working 2.2 innings without surrendering a hit.
Davidson 9, Elon 2
Players and coaches pointed toward a lack of energy in the dugout after Saturday’s loss. Elon went up 2-0 in the first but then fell behind 5-2 in the second and never recovered.
“It felt like we weren’t in the game the whole time,” junior designated hitter Chris King said. “[Davidson] putting up runs right back on us in the second put the energy down. The dugout wasn’t as loud or energetic as it needed to be. That’s contagious, so it carried on.”
But that would be the extent of Elon’s scoring, as the Phoenix struggled from then on out against Davidson starter Danny Mooney.
“We had a couple of chances to get (Mooney) out of the game early, but didn’t come through,” Jones said. “When you come through in those situations, it’s a different ball game.”
Davidson scored five in the second inning to take the lead. Back-to-back singles and a walk loaded the bases before Elon sophomore starter Michael Elefante walked a run in. Gerow then doubled a pair of runs in. Two more came in on a groundout and a sacrifice fly.
“When you go down 5-2, every at-bat becomes important,” Kennedy said. “We just didn’t have enough competitive at-bats.”
Davidson added two more in the third when Miller and Gerow each singled in runs. Those two, Davidson’s No. 8 and 9 hitters, provided 5 RBIs. The Wildcats scored the final runs of the day on a 2-RBI double by Becker in the ninth.
“We just didn’t cash guys in,” Kennedy said. “The air came out of us a little bit. Instead of punching back, we became a punching bag.”
Elefante took the loss after working just two innings and allowing five runs on four hits. Freshman Matt Harris went the final seven innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on six hits with seven strikeouts.
The teams will conclude the series at 1 p.m. Sunday. Jake Stalzer (5-3) will throw for Elon and Nick Neitzel (6-0) will be on the mound for Davidson.