CHARLESTON, S.C. — A tumultuous season came to an end for the Elon University baseball team, and in many ways, it was a direct reflection of how the season went.
A lead was built up. The opponent mounted a comeback. Elon couldn't answer. Frustration ensued.
The end result was a 10-7 loss to The Citadel in a play-in game May 20 at the Southern Conference Tournament.
Elon finishes with an overall record of 27-26, ending a streak of 14 seasons with at least 30 wins. The Phoenix lost 14 of its last 18 to end the season, and posted an overall earned run average of 4.73, with a 5.75 ERA in SoCon play.
"It's going to be a long summer," Kennedy said. "Over the course of the season, you learn about your team and your guys. We learned we have to make a greater commitment to the program and doing things the right way on a consistent basis. Mainly, taking ownership of what we're doing across the board."
The Citadel took a 1-0 lead in the first after Mason Davis doubled on the first pitch of the game and scored on a Bo Thompson groundout.
Elon then made its statement, batting around and scoring six runs in the third. A groundout began the inning, but then two walks and a single loaded the bases. Junior first baseman Tyler McVicar then singled in a pair, and another run scored on an error.
Freshman third baseman Nick Zammarelli kept the rally alive with an RBI double to the wall in right. An error and a hit by pitch loaded the bases again, and junior shortstop Andy Moore came through with an RBI single. A fielder's choice brought in the final run of the inning.
The Bulldogs, the No. 10 seed in the SoCon Tournament, struck back with five runs in the fourth to tie it. With the bases loaded, an infield single off the bat of Ryan Kilgallen scored a run, and a throwing error on that play scored another. Calvin Orth singled in a run, and Hughston Armstrong brought in two on a single.
Elon junior Casey Jones, named SoCon Player of the Year on Monday, hit his seventh home run of the year in the bottom of the fourth. The solo shot to right put Elon back in the lead, 7-6.
The Citadel was in control from there, getting two runs in the fifth and one each in the sixth and ninth while limiting Elon at the plate.
"We did some good things offensively," Kennedy said. "We worked some counts. We hit some balls hard, but we hit them right at guys. We hit some balls right on the button, but we don't have anything to show for it."
Pitching was Kennedy's main area of concern following the game. Junior Lucas Bakker, Elon's normal Friday starter, lasted just 3.2 innings in which he allowed six runs on seven hits. It was the shortest start of the season for him.
Freshman Matt Harris then came in for 1.1 innings and was charged with three runs on three hits with three walks and the loss. Junior Jake Stalzer then threw two scoreless innings, before senior Ryan Pennell gave up one run on one hit in two innings.
"We got in some bad counts," Kennedy said. "The most disappointing part of the whole game was those four guys on the mound giving up 10 runs. That's not a good sign. That's where we've been pitching-wise the last month of the season."
Jones went 1-for-4, ending the year with a 12-game hitting streak and hitting safely in 38 of the last 39 games. He shatters Elon's Division I era record for batting average, recording a final average of .418. He led the team in batting average, home runs and RBI.
Zammarelli was 1-for-3 and ends the year on a 13-game hitting streak.
Elon will lose four players from this year's squad — Pennell, relievers Jacob Baker and Grant Fisher and utility player Sam Paone.
"We have a lot of guys back, but that'll be exciting only if we go home over the summer and work on our game," Kennedy said.
Elon will begin play next season in the Colonial Athletic Association.