With two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth, junior Danny Lynch approached the batter's box with the Elon University baseball team trailing 6-5. On a hitter's 2-1 count, Lynch drove an off-speed pitch on the outside corner of the plate to left center to give the Phoenix a 7-6 walk-off win against the University of Delaware.
With the win, the Phoenix advanced to the winner's bracket of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament and earned a spot against tournament host College of Charleston.
Lynch's hit capped off a five-run ninth inning and marathon of a day. The Elon-Delaware game began at noon and ended around 8:30 p.m. thanks to a five and a half hour rain delay in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
The Phoenix trailed 6-2 going into the ninth. It stranded a plethora of runners. It could not generate enough offense to support its pitching staff. But all that changed in the bottom of the ninth.
Elon cut the deficit in half with four consecutive singles to lead off the final frame. The hits came from seniors Casey Jones, Ryan Cooper and Chris King and sophomore Nick Zammarelli. The Phoenix later got its fifth run on a wild pitch by senior Delaware reliever Luke Alicknavitch.
With one out and the tying run 90 feet away from home, Elon carried all the momentum. But Alicknavitch struck out Elon junior Joey Tomko to put two away. Alicknavitch then exited the game after surrendering a walk to the following batter.
Sensing Alicknavitch was not the best person to face Lynch, Blue Hens head coach Jim Sherman brought in freshman Colman Vila. Vila's fourth pitch to Lynch caught too much of the plate, leading to a two-run, game-winning single for Elon.
Lynch got the big hit but other players performed well offensively for Elon.
Cooper went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning and single in the ninth.
Jones, Zammarelli and King also finished the day with a couple hits. By the end of the game, Elon totaled 11 hits, five of which came in the ninth inning.
On the other end of the field, Elon head coach Mike Kennedy had to make some adjustments due to the lengthy rain delay.
Sophomore Nick Beaulac pitched two and a third for the Phoenix but was forced to exit after play was suspended in the top of the third. Although he limited the Blue Hens to one hit, he surrendered three runs, one of which was earned, and four walks. When play resumed 5 hours and 32 minutes later, Kennedy brought in freshman Sean Byrnes in relief of Beaulac.
Byrnes pitched the remainder of the game and kept the Phoenix within striking distance even though he allowed three additional runs. Brynes's performance was enough to earn him his second victory of his college career.
As Elon prepares for its game Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against College of Charleston, it will look to improve defensively and on the hill.
The Phoenix committed two errors in the top of the third, leading Delaware to score three unearned runs. Some problems remain outside the team's control though. Injuries, such as one to junior starter Michael Elefante, have hurt the team's starting rotation and bullpen. The Phoenix must dominate on the mound to defeat a challenging upcoming opponent.
College of Charleston concluded the regular season first in the CAA with a 21-3 conference record. The Cougars also have a home field advantage since it is hosting this year's CAA Tournament. Although they are ranked No. 13 in the nation, they have lost to the Phoenix in the past.
Elon took one of three earlier this season when it hosted College of Charleston April 10-12. But the Phoenix got outscored 20-10 in the series and will look to excel offensively against a powerful pitching rotation. Although this game was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., it has been postponed to 8:30 p.m. since Northeastern and the College of William & Mary were unable to play Wednesday.