For the first time in 16 years, the Elon men’s baseball was shut out for a second straight game, falling to Liberty University 1-0 in 10 innings Tuesday night at Latham Park.
The game was deadlocked all the way through nine innings, but in the 10th, Liberty freshman shortstop Cam Locklear scored on a passed ball to give the Flames the only run of the night. Elon put runners on second and third in the bottom half of the inning, but sophomore catcher James Venuto struck out to end the Phoenix's third scoreless game in its last four played.
Elon's offensive struggled appeared mightily, as the Phoenix only mustering three hits on the night. But Liberty only managed three hits as well, with Elon head coach Mike Kennedy leaving the night equally pleased with his pitching and frustrated with the hitting.
“Historically, we've really been good offensively. In the last couple years we've struggled a little bit on the mound,” Kennedy said. “It’s early for that side of the ball, but the returns are pretty good. Really pleased with those kids, and the energy coming from those guys is unbelievable.
“Whereas on the flip side of our hitters, we haven’t bought into a team approach. There’s little to no confidence.”
The last time Elon was shut out in back-to-back games was in May 2001. It's also the first time Elon's been shut out at home in 133 games, with the last scoreless home affair coming in April 2012. Kennedy sees two main issues with how Elon's hitters have been approaching their at-bats.
“One is being over aggressive and two is trying to leave the park too much,” Kennedy said. “We hit doubles and home runs we know that we do that. These guys are capable of doing that, but right now we're selling out for that and really not trying to get the barrel to the baseball. If we change our approach, then I think our numbers will get better.”
Junior pitcher Sean Byrnes threw 5.1 scoreless innings after being informed he was starting the day before, continuing the trend of Elon's of strong pitching. It's the second time in five days Elon's played a scoreless game into extra innings, a level of success that senior pitcher Danny Crowe — who threw two perfect innings in relief — feels is contagious.
“We motivate each other, who's ever on the mound,” said senior pitcher Danny Crowe. “We've always done that, but now we're getting some success and I'm not going to lie to you, it's kind of fun right now. I love to see everyone doing so well on the mound.”
But as the pitching is trending up, the offense has been trending down, with Kennedy saying it's "unheard of" in college baseball. But Byrnes recalled the previous two years on campus and remains encouraged about the offense going forward.
“They've picked us up before,” Byrnes. “Once it all comes together, it's gonna be a good season. A lot of positives.”
The Phoenix drops to 3-5 on the season, but is back in action at 4 p.m. today when it travels to take on No. 9 East Carolina University in Greenville.