As the Elon University softball team entered its weekend, head coach Kathy Bocock did not want her team to worry about individual statistics.
“We’re really young and we’re trying to work on team unity, and trying to work together on things,” Bocock said. “We’re talking about not having stats [matter] and not knowing those [stats].”
So naturally, in the first of four games at the Elon Softball Tournament Friday night, freshman pitcher Abby Barker threw the first perfect game in Elon’s Division I era.
It was just the beginning of a masterfully pitched weekend for the softball team, who swept the four-game tournament while allowing just two runs.
Barker’s perfect game only took six innings, as she watched from the bench while senior infielder Emily Cameron singled home junior infielder Emily Roper to give Elon an 8-0 win over Niagara University.
“I was mixing up really well,” Barker said. “My catchers called a great game and I was just throwing a little of everything, just hitting the corners and throwing some offspeed.”
Barker only struck out three batters in the game, needing her defense to make plays for 15 of the 18 outs. Bocock highlighted two plays that stood out to her.
“Early in the game, they put some hard hits on the balls,” Bocock said. “[Sophomore infielder] Hannah Olson made an unbelievable play back in that hole that would’ve been a base hit, but she made a play on it and [freshman infielder] Ashtyn [Foddrell] held on to the ball. And then [junior outfielder] Alaina Hall made one heck of a catch back there at the fence.”
On Hall’s catch, Barker added, “I was like, ‘Thank goodness Alaina.’ I was so happy.”
With the team battling injuries and three more games after Friday night, Bocock had a substitution plan in place to get people rest. And, despite the perfect game, Bocock stuck to the plan — meaning Barker had to pitch to two different catchers during the game.
“A lot of times, when someone is throwing a perfect game, you just don’t do that,” Bocock said. “But we did it, and it all played out the right way for us, and that’s all that matters. I’m really proud of Abby and I’m proud of the rest of the team for making these things happen for us.”
Barker wasn’t the only one to excel on the mound over the weekend.
Freshman pitcher Elise Walton threw a 5-inning shutout in the first game Saturday, as Elon beat Oakland University 8-0 via run rule. Walton struck out five while allowing four hits and two walks.
In the second game Saturday, Elon scored six runs in the sixth inning to beat Niagara 7-2. Barker came back in relief of sophomore pitcher Kiandra Mitchum and got her second win of the weekend Saturday, throwing two perfect innings while striking out one.
In Sunday’s tournament finale, Walton came back with another fantastic performance, allowing five hits in 10 shutout innings with eight strikeouts. Sophomore infielder Kristin Hoover singled home senior pinch-runner Kayla Caruso to give Elon a 1-0 win and a perfect 4-0 weekend record.
Barker earned Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Rookie of the Week honors with eight perfect innings over the weekend, which was announced Monday. But Walton’s 15 shutout innings with 13 strikeouts and only nine hits is quite impressive itself.
And, behind the two freshmen pitchers, Elon seems prepared to make noise in the CAA.
“I feel like we know we can compete with anybody in our conference,” Walton said. “It’s more of a drive and will to win and we kind of have been lacking that. I feel like this weekend was great to have heading into conference.”