The Elon University baseball team lost both games on Saturday’s doubleheader against Wright State University, 13-11 in 10 innings and 10-2.
The three losses to start the season give Elon its first 0-3 start since 1983, when Elon lost its first four games of the season. The way that Elon lost Friday’s game and the first game Saturday were all-too-familiar.
“It’s kind of like that déjà vu feeling from last season,” said junior infielder Nick Zammarelli. “The offense has come out, we put up some good runs early and feel comfortable, but we couldn’t hang on to it.
Head coach Mike Kennedy diagnosed that the problems for Elon begin with the starting pitching.
“The biggest thing is how disappointed we are in our starting pitching, and that we didn’t see it coming,” Kennedy said. “We’ve really been throwing good in the preseason, and in our intersquad games, those three guys have thrown the ball very well. Maybe we had too much adrenaline and excitement, and got away from what we do well.”
Junior outfielder Kyle Jackson was the bright spot for Elon on the day, blasting three home runs in the first game and going 3-4 in the second game for a doubleheader total of six hits.
“I was seeing the ball really well, and I didn’t let one at-bat dictate the other,” Jackson said. “After one ended, the next one started. A lot of guys will hit a home run and the next at-bat they’ll strike out or pop up because they’re thinking about it.”
Kennedy, who felt his offense has been decent in the first three games, was especially happy to see Jackson hitting both the fastball and the offspeed pitch.
“He showed that he can handle a lot of different stuff,” Kennedy said. “He’s not a one-dimensional hitter, where he’s got to get a fastball to do damage. He really picked out some good pitches to hit and put some really good swings on them.”
The first game started with a lot of offense, as Raider sophomore first baseman Gabe Synder hit an opposite-field grand slam to left. Elon quickly responded, as Jackson lined a three-run home run to left. Wright State added one in the second and got two more on a towering three-run homer run by junior catcher Sean Murphy in the fourth.
Elon tied the game with two runs in the fourth and fifth, highlighted by Jackson’s second home run of the game in the fifth. Elon had chances for more, as Zammarelli struck out with the bases loaded to end the fourth.
Wright State scored two runs in the sixth inning without getting a hit, thanks to three hit batsmen, two walks and an error. Elon responded with four runs, capped off by Jackson’s three-run homer — his third of the day, and second three-run shot — to take its only lead of the day. The three home runs off of the Horizon League favorites is a boon to Jackson’s confidence.
“I’m definitely confident about it, because I’m seeing the ball well,” Jackson said. “They’ve got a pretty good staff, and they’re throwing pretty hard, but I’m right where I need to be.”
Wright State quickly tied it in the seventh on a two-run double by sophomore second baseman Matt Morrow. The game remained scoreless until the tenth, when Elon committed two errors to aid the Raider offense. Senior pitcher Jack Van Horn pitched the last 1.2 innings for Wright State to get the win.
In game two, the Raiders scored five runs in the first off Elon starter and junior pitcher Nick Beaulac. Snyder and senior infielder John Brodner each hit two-run homers off Beaulac, who only allowed two home runs in 2015.
After Elon added a run in the second and Wright State added one back in the third, Beaulac gave up a third home run in the fifth, when senior outfielder Ryan Fucci blasted a three-run home run to right. Beaulac gave up 10 runs, seven of which were earned, in four innings and change.
“Our starting pitching didn’t give us a chance in the first three games, and they’ve got to get better there,” Kennedy said. “I like this club, I really do. But if we’re going to pitch like that, I won’t like them long. But I think those guys are all capable, and they’re going to have much better outings than what we saw this weekend.”
Out of the bullpen, junior pitcher Derek Pike threw five scoreless innings, striking out six while allowing two hits and a walk. Kennedy wasn’t surprised by Pike’s performance, but he was definitely pleased.
“What he did on the back end of that game was outstanding,” Kennedy said. “He’s typically gone an inning or two for us, and he goes out and gives us 60 pitches and throws up some zeroes. We really needed someone to eat some innings for us, and he did an unbelievable job of that.”
Elon scored its two runs in the second game on a triple from senior infielder Danny Lynch in the second and a double from Zammarelli in the sixth.
The Phoenix will look to avoid the sweep at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21.