The goal for softball pitchers is to throw about 80 to 90 pitches in a normal seven-inning game. But most pitchers don’t set a goal for a pinch count for what would happen if they threw 15 innings in a single game.
But for senior pitcher Kayla Caruso, that magic number is 197.
That’s how many pitches she threw in a complete game victory against No. 6 James Madison University Saturday, leading the Phoenix to a 5-4 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
“I’ve never pitched that many innings in a game before,” Caruso said.
Caruso has been pitching at Elon all four years of her collegiate career, and it seems only fitting that she had one of her best outings of her career on her Senior Day. She gave only four runs and one walk while striking out seven.
Caruso didn’t mince words when she pondered the significance of the game, which earned her a CAA Pitcher of the Week honor Monday.
“It meant everything,” Caruso said. “This is the last time that I’ll ever play here, so just for me to prove it to myself that I could do it was huge. Then for the team to play behind me — it was everything for us.”
Caruso said she was able to complete the game on adrenaline and avoided thinking about the logistics of her performance to that point.
“I tried not to think about what inning it was,” Caruso said. “If I did, I would think, ‘Man, shouldn’t I be tired about now?’ So by not thinking about it, that really helped me.”
While Caruso’s performance was remarkable, Elon would not have won without their other senior, infielder Emily Cameron. Cameron’s only hit of the day came in the 15th inning, a single that sparked a rally that concluded with sophomore outfielder Kara Shutt knocking Cameron in from second and win the game.
“I fought hard to recover back from my surgery,” Cameron said. “So just to come out and get the winning run in a big game like that with my teammates behind me was great.”
Cameron had elbow surgery in the off-season and quickly worked to get back in game shape for this season. She was able to, and has been an important factor to the team, hitting .250 with 18 hits, 17 runs and 10 RBI in 33 games.
“That’s what [Caruso and Cameron] are here to do, and what a way to end their homestand,” said head coach Kathy Bocock. “We know what they are capable of, and that’s why they have been here for their four years. And they have done a great job for us. I’m really happy for them.”
The only two seniors on the team have a deeper bond than most, as they are from the same home town of Kennesaw, Georgia.
They are concluding four years as teammates at Elon, but have been playing together for the past 12 years — since fourth grade.
“She may be sick of me, but I’m not sick of her just yet,” Cameron joked.
Both Cameron and Caruso suffered injuries throughout their four years, and having each other as a support system carried major significance.
“There’s been ups and downs, but we battled through everything and here we are today,” Cameron said. “It’s been a great four years, especially with Kayla by my side.”