The recruiting pitch Elon baseball coach Mike Kennedy made to Spartanburg Methodist outfielder Robbie Dodds after the Phoenix’s 11-4 victory against Western Carolina May 7 couldn’t have been too complex.
Of course, Kennedy probably wishes Dodds could suit up now because the list of injured Phoenix is growing by the game.
The latest casualties are Sebastian Gomez and Jake Luce. Gomez got hit by a pitch in the back in the May 7 game against Western Carolina and Luce got hit in the finger – and may have broken it – a few innings later. They join junior center fielder Niko Fraser (concussion), senior infielder Garrett Koster (vertebrae damage in neck) and junior pitcher Kyle Webb (ribs) on the shelf, and Fraser and Koster are already done for the season.
It’s an injury situation Kennedy’s never seen before.
“Not all at one time,” he said. “We’ve had guys banged up and get hurt but being able to play through it. I’ve never had this many (injuries) all at one time at a point of the season when you really wish you were healthy and going into the (Southern Conference) tournament playing your best baseball.”
In addition to missed time, some Elon (28-20, 17-10 Southern Conference) players are playing hurt.
Those injuries have forced junior Alex Swim to catch for at least part of Elon’s last 15 games.
“Alex Swim is worn slap out right now,” Kennedy said. “But we can’t get him out. (Sophomore catcher/first baseman) Ryan Kinsella’s arm’s banged up. He can’t throw, so we can’t catch him right now. Exams are coming. That’ll be a good time to get them some rest. But they’re taking their toll on us.”
After a road contest against East Carolina May 8, the Phoenix finishes its regular season schedule with a home series against The Citadel May 16-18.
The injuries will challenge some underperforming young players to step up to proverbial plate the way freshman infielder Michael Elefante did against the Catamounts.
Elefante has just five hits and a .196 OBP on the season but was able to drive a third inning Jeremy Null fastball over the left field fence May 7 for his first career home run.
“It felt good,” Elefante said. “It would have felt good to get any kind of hit but I’ve been seeing the ball well lately. I just haven’t been getting good result.”
The series loss to Western Carolina was the first three-game home series loss for the Phoenix since Elon lost two of three against Georgia Southern April 9-11, 2010.
Obviously, the timing – one series before the postseason tournament – of the defeats was far from ideal.
“Personally, I think it’s really disappointing,” said freshman outfielder Quinn Bower. “I never want to lose at home. I never want to lose in general, but losing at home sucks even more.”
The Phoenix has three more games at Latham Park to get the feeling of defeat out of its mouths.
Then the real games begin.