For the second time this season, the Elon University softball team defeated a Power Five conference opponent, as the Phoenix defeated the Michigan State Spartans 2-0 in the opening game of the Elon Softball Cardinal Invite.
This was Elon’s fifth game this season against a Power Five school, which consists of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Southeastern Conference and Pacific-12 Conference. Elon is now 2-3 in those games, with the previous win coming against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Feb. 16.
Redshirt senior McKenzie Weber pitched a complete game shutout for the Phoenix, allowing just four hits and two walks while also striking out two batters. Weber said her drop ball — a low pitch that pitchers often rely on to get ground ball outs — worked well throughout the game.
“They weren’t swinging at it very well, so I just went with it,” Weber said. “My coach did a really good job calling the drop ball when she saw that it was working well.”
Head coach Kathy Bocock said Weber, who is now 3-0 this season, continues to gain confidence with each game she starts.
“She feels good where she is right now,” Bocock said. “She’s very talented, she just needs that confidence and she’s gaining that and when she gets it. She’s very effective.”
Elon’s defense converted two double plays in the last two innings, as sophomore third baseman Gabi Schaal caught line drives on both plays before throwing runners out on first base. Weber said the team’s defensive performance fueled her confidence as the game progressed.
“It’s a relief to know my defense can back me up even if I do miss my pitches,” Weber said. “I just trust my defense and it feels good as a pitcher to know your defense is able to pick you up.”
“We had good speed on the bases,” Bocock said. “Drew’s quick and we had two outs and she knew she was going all the way, so she did a great job.”
Elon finished the game with just three hits, two of which came in the bottom of the third inning. However, Bocock said she is not worried about the team at the plate.
“You only have to have one run,” Bocock said. “If you can hold everybody else to none, that wins it.”
This was Elon’s first ever home victory over a team from the Big Ten. Bocock said Elon is excited to be playing teams from the best conferences in the country but also that the players are not satisfied with anything other than victories against those opponents.
“We’re playing a tough schedule,” Bocock said. “We’ve lost a few close ones to big teams. They’ve been right there but they’re not settling for anything else, and that’s huge.”
Elon continues the Elon Softball Cardinal Classic — the team’s third home tournament of the season — on Saturday with games against the University of Detroit Mercy and Michigan State.
The first game at Hunt Softball Park will begin at approximately 12 p.m.
Weber said winning the first game of the tournament sets Elon up well for its final four games of the weekend.
“It just sets us up for the next few games,” Weber said. “Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going.”