As the Elon University baseball team concludes its first month of play, a happy medium between offense and pitching has yet to be reached.
In a role reversal from previous Elon teams, it’s the pitching that has emerged as the strength of this year’s club, with a team ERA of 4.11 checking in at nearly two-and-a-half runs lower than last year. But it’s the offense that’s lagged behind, with the Phoenix scoring just seven runs in a five-game losing streak last month, getting shut out three times.
Just when it looked like the Phoenix finally found a rhythm in its sweep of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Elon dropped its series against Georgia Southern University, mustering just one run in losing the final two games.
The once-dormant offense saw a change when head coach Mike Kennedy called for his team to focus more on getting runners on base and in scoring position. Players had previously been emphasizing individual hits and padded stats for batting average, according to Kennedy.
“Offensively just making sure we garnish a good approach,” Kennedy said. “What we’re trying to get across is that we’re trying to play team offense. We’re not good at individual offense which is what we’re doing right now. Until we figure out how to start swinging, we have to figure out how we’re going to get runs.”
Redshirt freshman third baseman Cam Devanney, who had three RBI off three hits and two runs in game one against Georgia Southern, reiterated his skipper’s point of team offense.
Devanney said he has seen a change in how players have been coming to the plate trying to help runners in scoring position rather than just getting on base themselves. It’s what he, along with Kennedy, think is the key to having a consistent presence on the offensive side as pitching remains a strength for the team.
“We talk a lot about quality at-bats,” Devanney said. “Doing things that will help the team win — getting the ball in play, helping a guy get over, sacrificing fly, just stuff like that. Instead of trying to hit for yourself or for your average, more about helping the team win. I think guys are starting to buy into that, especially this past week.”
Though on the scoreboard the Phoenix seem to have struggled recently on the mound, starting pitching has been a strength. The issue of finding consistency at the plate has been the team’s crisis of identity 16 games into the season.
“Fortunately we’re pitching the ball really well and that’s kept us in a lot ball games and it’s actually won a few for us,” Kennedy said. “We really believe we’re better than what we’re showing offensively.”
Elon has a weekend home stand against the Virginia Military Institute March 17-19 in what will be a chance for the Phoenix to show that its offense is on the right course for the remainder of the season.
The team will look to find a consistent identity with the bats before conference play begins March 24 against Northeastern University.
“We’re trying to get the point across that we don’t need to rely on one swing of the bat to score runs,” Kennedy said. “Just trying to have more guys take part in the big picture of the offense and we’ll be more successful.”