With less than a month until the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament begins May 6 and a tough show of upcoming conference opponents, every game becomes more important for the Elon University softball team. But the team is ready for the difficult journey.
“I believe this team is more than capable of winning a CAA championship this year if we play softball like we know how to,” said freshman outfielder Kara Shutt. “I think we just need to be more consistent in our overall performance as a team, not just physically,but mentally.”
Having improved its record to 25-13 (7-5 CAA) after an important series win against the University of Delaware Blue Hens, the team has high hopes for the remainder of the season.
“I am very pleased with the growth of our team at this point,” said head coach Kathy Bocock. “This team has matured through the season by helping each other through adversity with lots of schedule changes.”
Elon currently sits in third place in the CAA but has experienced its share of obstacles in the process of climbing the leaderboard.
Inclement weather forced the Phoenix to reschedule several games — at one point, the team played seven games in five days.
But the Phoenix has managed to remain focused and overcome such adversity.
The CAA has given weekly honor accolades to four different Elon players thus far — two of the players received multiple honors.
While individual awards are not Elon’s primary goal, the accolades are a testament to the work ethic Bocock instills in her players.
One player who has had a breakout season for the Phoenix is freshman infielder Hannah Olson. She has wasted no time adjusting to college softball.
As one of the youngest leaders, she has the highest individual batting average (.347) and on-base percentage (.453) on the team.
Shutt’s numbers are just as impressive. She is second on the team in batting average (.339) and is tied for the team lead in RBI (28). The freshman also leads the team in hits (42), total bases (65) and doubles (11).
Sophomore catcher Emily Roper has made significant offensive contributions for the Phoenix, hitting six home runs. Roper shares the team lead with Shutt for RBI and leads in slugging percentage (.540).
Elon is also excelling in the circle.
For the pitching staff, senior Chelsea White has mounted a 5-0 record on the season. Junior Kayla Caruso and freshman Kiandra Mitchum have shared the majority of the time starting in the circle. Both have made 25 appearances and recorded eight wins.
“This team is confident in our ability to win every game we play,” Caruso said. “If we continue to improve over the next several weeks, our talent and work ethic will take us far.”
With 14 games remaining in the season, nine of which are against CAA opponents — Hofstra University, James Madison University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington — the Phoenix has a chance to clinch a postseason berth in the CAA Tournament.
Although there are eight teams in the conference, only four are eligible to compete in the CAA Tournament. Elon is currently two games ahead of the fifth place team.
While being two games ahead with nine conference games remaining may sound encouraging, Elon has a tough road coming up — the Phoenix will travel to Hofstra and James Madison within the next two weeks.
The Dukes have an impressive overall record (32-6) and are unbeaten in the CAA at 11-0.
Hofstra is also a formidable opponent with a 9-2 record in CAA play.
The Phoenix returns home to Hunt Softball Park today to host a doubleheader at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. against North Carolina A&T State University.