The Elon University baseball team opened up the 2015 season with an impressive debut from its offense in a three-game series against the Penn State University Nittany Lions.
After scoring 34 runs, the Phoenix sits undefeated at 3-0.
Elon swept Penn State with an offensive effort that yielded 16, 11 and seven runs in three games, respectively.
“We were very good offensively,” said head coach Mike Kennedy following Elon’s first victory over the Nittany Lions. “We put the ball in play a lot. We really ran the bases very well.”
The Phoenix received production from its entire starting lineup Friday — everyone who saw action registered at least one hit.
Senior catcher Chris King had a strong debut with eight runs batted in and a home run in the last game of the series.
“We’re just locked in right now,” King said. “We really got clicking the last couple of weeks coming into this spring and we just carried over.”
Preseason All-American senior first baseman Casey Jones batted .600 with five runs, six hits and four RBI to begin his final campaign with the Phoenix. In his first at-bat of the season, Jones hit an RBI single to score senior outfielder Quinn Bower. Once on base, Jones stole second and third to register the first steals of the season for Elon.
Jones believes the experience the roster brings adds a punch to the already solid offense.
“We have a lot of experience,” Jones said. “[We have guys] back in the lineup who can hit, and I think that’s what we’re going to have to do this year for us to be where we want to be.”
Baserunning was proved a hallmark of Elon’s series against the Nittany Lions. The team swiped seven bases, including four from leadoff batter Quinn Bower, a senior.
Bower was placed in the leadoff position for all three games. He used his speed to help the Phoenix put runners in scoring position. Bower accounted for six runs in the series, second on the team only to senior infielder Andy Moore, who had seven.
“We’ve practiced that all fall,” Bower said when asked about the team’s baserunning. “We always want to be aggressive on the base paths and push the issue. That can lead to runs and put pressure on the other team and make them make mistakes. We always practice that, and it worked out the past couple of days.” Another strategy the team used over the weekend was what Kennedy called “rebound runs.”
It accounted for momentum shifts throughout the weekend to stop Penn State rallies. In almost every inning the Nittany Lions scored a run, Elon immediately answered.
This made potential comebacks far from coming.
“Baseball is a momentum sport,” Kennedy said. “You get a lot of energy in your dugout when you score runs, and we were able to come back in and put two on the board or score a lot of rebound runs. It starts to become demoralizing.”
Currently, Elon is averaging 11 runs a game. If the trend continues, the Phoenix may find itself sitting pretty by the time the CAA tournament begins May 20.
“You’re just as good as your next start,” Kennedy said. “Confidence breeds success. Right now we have a lot of guys feeling pretty good about themselves.”