Down 6-2, Elon loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth with no outs. A pair of RBI groundouts by redshirt sophomore catcher Parker Haskin and redshirt sophomore first baseman Bryce Jeske cut Elon’s deficit in half, but a strikeout by redshirt junior second baseman Carlos Marte ended the inning with two runners left on base.
Elon left eight runners on base, five of which came in the fifth and eighth innings. Head coach Mike Kennedy said hitting better with runners in scoring position has been a focus for the team in recent weeks.
“You feel like you’re beating a dead horse because we feel like we’re talking about it over and over and over,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes, when you talk about it, it kind of builds a little pressure within our guys.”
Sophomore Cole Reynolds started as pitcher for Elon and threw two scoreless innings without allowing a Wake Forest baserunner. However, Wake Forest’s offense scored four runs to go ahead 4-1 in the top of the third, which was Reynolds’ final inning.
Elon relied on its bullpen for the final six innings, using six pitchers from its bullpen. The group allowed just two Wake Forest runs the rest of the game. Kennedy said Elon is still learning how to manage the bullpen, especially with how long each relief pitcher should remain in the game.
“They’re doing some really good things,” Kennedy said. “It’s just making sure we keep a tight lid on their role and put them in a situation where they keep being successful.
Wake Forest added a run in the fourth inning and led 5-1 entering the bottom of the fifth. After two walks to begin the inning, Marte hit a single to load the bases with no outs. With the top of Elon’s batting order due up, the Phoenix had a chance to cut into Wake Forest’s lead. While freshman left fielder Charlie Granatell scored one run on a fielder’s choice, Elon could not add any more, as redshirt sophomore third baseman Connor Coolahan and redshirt junior designated hitter Luke Stephenson both struck out swinging to end the scoring threat.
“Those opportunities are few and far between against a good ball club,” Kennedy said. “When you get them, you’ve got to take advantage of them and we didn’t.”
Stephenson finished the game 1-3 with an RBI. He said Elon needs to have more consistent at bats when runners are in scoring position.
“A few more big hits and that game is different,” Stephenson said. “We’re right there.”
Wake Forest scored a run in the sixth to go ahead 6-2. Though Elon made the score 6-4 in the eighth, Wake Forest did not allow an Elon baserunner in the bottom of the ninth, even against the top three batters in Elon’s lineup.
Elon previously lost to Wake Forest this season 10-2 on March 1. Stephenson said the team improved in every area in today’s game, especially at the plate.
“Guys were able to have some better at bats today,” Stephenson said. “The energy was definitely there today.”
Now 14-14 on the season, Elon returns to conference play this weekend with three games on the road against Northeastern University. Kennedy said playing a midweek game against a team with strong pitching like Wake Forest should help prepare Elon for an important weekend conference series.
“There’s no question when you face arms like we did today, it’s going to make you better,” Kennedy said. “We need a series win. We need one bad. We know that, we understand that. We don’t want to panic by any means. We can get hot but I want our guys to play with some energy and some urgency.”