The Phoenix’s fight song played as the Elon University softball team gathered in front of home plate to sing along and celebrate an 8-2 victory against James Madison University. However, once the music stopped, there was still important business to take care of.
As the song faded, the players turned their attention to head coach Kathy Bocock. The team shot off confetti as the players surrounded Bocock, who became Elon softball’s all-time winningest head coach on Sunday with her 278th career victory, to honor her achievement.
“When they did that, emotions were there because to achieve that is pretty special,” Bocock said. “To do it with these girls was really, really special.”
After serving as an assistant coach at Elon for two seasons under Patti Raduenz, whose record she surpassed on Sunday, Bocock took over the program as interim head coach in 2011. She was named the school’s full-time head coach for the 2012 campaign.
In her time leading the Phoenix, Bocock has posted four seasons with at least 30 wins and has helped Elon transition from the Southern Conference to the Colonial Athletic Association. She guided the program to its first ever CAA Championship game appearance in 2019 and did so again in 2022.
“When you set out as a coach, I don’t know if you ever think you’re going to get that milestone, but I’m really proud of it,” Bocock said. “I don’t get here without all my coaches and all the players that have played for me and the ones playing for me now.”
Bocock is a native of Dayton, Virginia, just outside of Harrisonburg where James Madison is located. The Dukes won six CAA regular season titles since Elon joined the league and made an appearance in the 2021 College World Series. James Madison left the CAA after the 2022 season to join the Sun Belt Conference.
For Bocock, getting the record-breaking win against her hometown school and longtime conference opponent made the moment even more special.
“There’s a softball god, I think,” Bocock said. “I have so much respect for JMU. That’s such a big win for our girls tonight, and to get it on this day is pretty special.”
Senior catcher Carley Davis has been a part of 63 of Bocock’s 278 victories. She said she was happy to be a part of the milestone.
“Being here, celebrating with her and being able to give her that achievement was amazing,” Davis said.
James Madison took an early 2-0 lead in the opening inning when Hallie Hall hit a home run off sophomore pitcher McKenna McCard. The home run was the last hit McCard allowed on the night, as she settled in to pitch six innings, five of which were scoreless.
McCard said she did not dwell on the home run and knew there was still plenty of time for the Phoenix to dig out of its early hole.
“I didn’t think anything of it at all,” McCard said. “I knew my offense had my back, and I knew that we were going to move past it.”
The Phoenix moved past the Dukes’ home run quickly, responding immediately in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double by senior first baseman Claudia Penny that scored Davis. The senior has four RBIs in her last two games.
After a pair of scoreless innings by both teams, Elon’s offense came to life in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore center fielder Chloe Hatzopoulos hit a lead-off single and later stole second base. With two outs, freshman Mauri Murray stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter and drove Hatzopoulos home with an RBI single.
After a pair of walks by senior second baseman Megan Grant and Davis, Penny waged a marathon 12-pitch at-bat that included eight foul balls. On the 12th pitch, Penny hit a fly ball that James Madison’s right fielder could not secure. All three runners on base scored as the Phoenix went ahead 5-2.
“It was crazy that she had that long of an at-bat,” Davis said. “I’m proud of her for sticking through that.”
Elon added two more runs in the fourth to go ahead 7-2 off the bat of senior shortstop Bella Devesa. Davis tacked on another score in the fifth with an RBI double to give the Phoenix an 8-2 lead.
Despite the six-run cushion for Elon, James Madison made a final push in the top of the seventh inning. After two full-count walks by McCard, Bocock brought in sophomore pitcher Taylor Cherry to close the game. Cherry allowed a walk to the first batter she faced in another 12-pitch at-bat.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Cherry went to work. With the count full against James Madison infielder Hannah Shiflett, Cherry forced a lineout to Penny at first base. She let out a roar as Elon moved one out closer to the victory.
With the bases still loaded, Cherry struck out the final two James Madison batters to escape the jam and seal the milestone win. Bocock said McCard and Cherry are a formidable duo and was proud of them both for dealing with adversity in pressure situations throughout the night.
“They piggyback well off each other,” Bocock said. “I’ve got competitors on my pitching staff. This is a big confidence builder for them.”
Elon finished its second home tournament of the season with a 3-1 record. After going 1-3 in last weekend’s tournament, Bocock said Elon’s performance the last three days is something to build on going forward.
“Last weekend, I don’t think we got off to a good start,” Bocock said. “We knew this weekend was going to be challenging because we had some really good teams in. For us to come out 3-1, we are feeling good about that.”
Elon returns to the road Wednesday for a matchup against North Carolina State University, who added former Elon center fielder Rebecca Murray as a graduate transfer this offseason.
While the season moves on and does not give the team much time to celebrate Bocock’s record, McCard said she will always cherish the memories from tonight.
“It’s a true honor to be under her and see her achieve that, especially against JMU,” McCard said. “It made it extra special.”