The bats were silent for the Elon University baseball team on Wednesday night, March 26 at Latham Park — for the first eight innings.
In the ninth, redshirt freshman catcher Chris Hall hit a game-tying home run to knot the low-scoring affair with Wake Forest University at 2-2. Eventually, though, the comeback would be for naught as Wake Forest scored on a controversial play in the 12th inning for a 3-2 win.
The visiting Demon Deacons plated two runs in the first two innings only to see the offense shut down by the Elon bullpen. Phoenix freshman starter Graham Edwards lasted only 1 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on a pair of hits and a pair of walks. Only 19 of Edwards’ 42 pitches were for strikes.
“If you can’t throw strikes, you’re going to be on a short leash,” Elon head coach Mike Kennedy said. “He was struggling to throw strikes, but we’re trying to win games. Hopefully he’ll be better next time.”
Relieving Edwards was fellow freshman Dimitri Lettas, who worked 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on only three hits with six strikeouts.
“Dimitri came in and was very, very good,” Kennedy said. “A bonus for us to see, (he’ll) help us down the road.”
“I felt good coming in,” Lettas said. “I wasn’t expecting to come in that early in the game, but I felt good today and made some good pitches. I was making good pitches on the outside part (of the plate). I felt good with the command of my fastball.”
Going to the ninth, the Demon Deacons had allowed only one baserunner since the third inning and led 2-0. That all went out the window quickly. Elon junior third baseman Casey Jones led off the inning with a single through the right side. With one out, Hall stepped up and launched a pitch over the left field fence for his first career home run.
“It was good to finally connect on a ball like that,” Hall said. “I just needed to get the head (of the bat) out, and I did.”
The inning continued as freshman designated hitter Nick Zammarelli singled and was replaced by redshirt freshman David Lowrey. Lowrey advanced to third on a steal and a wild pitch with only one out, but was stranded as two Elon hitters struck out.
“Opportunities have been going by the wayside for us,” Kennedy said. “It’s a place we’re at right now offensively and defensively. We’re making too many mistakes as well. Tonight, we just can’t get a big hit late in the game. Guys worry about mechanics offensively. When the game’s on the line, you throw that stuff out the window. You just fight your tail off and say ‘hey, I’m going to get a ball in play right here.’ We’re just not doing that.”
The game progressed to the 12th inning, when with one out, Elon junior pitcher Grant Fisher hit Wake Forest sophomore second baseman Jimmy Redovian with a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt, redshirt junior left fielder Grant Shambley hit an infield single, reaching on a bang-bang play at first base. Elon junior first baseman Chris King, expecting the third out to be called, did not notice Redovian motoring from second base all the way in to score.
“I think everybody thought he was out at first base,” Kennedy said. “King’s still got to finish the play. I would bet my life that the throw beat him, I have to look at the tape. Man, I think it caught us all off guard because we thought he was out. Position player wise, you have to finish every play — you don’t know what they’re going to call.”
Kennedy argued the call, but to no avail. The Demon Deacons shut the door in the bottom of the 12th and went home as winners.
The win went to junior pitcher Matt Pirro, who improved to 1-1. Fisher took the loss for Elon, dropping to 1-1. Freshman John McCarren picked up the save, his first of the season.
Elon falls to 14-10 overall, and Wake Forest improves to 16-10. Elon will host The Citadel in a Southern Conference series beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at Latham Park.