It was a strong win for the Elon University baseball team as the Phoenix surpassed USC Upstate 14-1 during the midweek match-up at Latham Park. Graduate student right-handed pitcher Joe Sprake began on the mound, his first start of the 2022-23 season, and said he got his momentum going from the first pitch.
“I always try to lock in and do the job to the best of my ability,” Sprake said.
The Phoenix extended its win streak to four, with an overall record improving to 17-8. Head coach Mike Kennedy said Sprake found out yesterday that he'd be the one to pitch today, taking the place of regular mid-week starter junior Cole Reynolds, and what Sprake did was remarkable.
“He was really aggressive with his fast ball,” Kennedy said. “We had several guys do some really good things.”
Sprake pitched three up, three down in the first three innings and gave up one hit in the fourth, but he got out of the inning clean. Alongside Sprake, redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Joe Savino helped carry the scoreless innings through six.
Sprake credited the bullpen staff behind him for their efforts.
“Taking it pitch by pitch and being able to move it through the bullpen,” Sprake said. “Everyone looked good out there.”
The Phoenix offense got on the board quickly as fifth-year catcher Luke Stephenson started the second inning with a single. USC Upstate pitching loaded the bases for sophomore right fielder Kenny Mallory Jr., who hit a sacrifice fly, putting an early 1-0 lead for Elon.
During the bottom of the fourth inning, redshirt junior second baseman Tanner Holliman led off with a solo homerun, his team-leading seventh on the year, which he said helped to build momentum for the rest of the lineup.
“It definitely got the guys going and everyone followed with some really quality at bats,” Holliman said.
The Phoenix tacked on one more during the fourth inning, leading the Spartans 3-0.
“Going into today, we knew that they were a good team. We had to win every at bat and dominate on the mound like we did,” Holliman said.
During the fifth inning, Elon’s offense blew the game open, scoring four runs — one on a wild pitch — putting the Phoenix’s lead to 7-0. As Elon's pitching dominated the top of the sixth inning, the offense followed suit and added seven more runs during the bottom of the sixth.
“I really enjoyed being behind the pitchers and watching them dominate all day,” Holliman said.
In the bottom of the sixth, Holliman reached first on a wild pitch, loading the bases to begin the Phoenix’s rally. After Mallory Jr. was hit by a pitch and junior shortstop James Broderick walked, tacking on two more, Elon kept the bases loaded for the top of the order, sophomore left fielder Charlie Granatell. Going 0-3 with a sacrifice fly prior to his at-bat, he stepped up to the plate and crushed a grand slam to left field, his first this year.
Back-to-back home runs increased Elon's score over Upstate as junior designated hitter Connor Offshack hit a solo home run after Granatell. The Phoenix were leading 14-0.
“We did a really good job of taking what they gave us and not chasing back pitches,” Kennedy said.
Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Sean O’Connell pitched the top of the seventh inning, as the first base runner for the Spartans came aboard off of redshirt junior third baseman Connor Coolahan’s throwing error. After a double, the runner would score off of a sacrifice fly, the only run the Phoenix would allow the Spartans all game. Collectively, Elon's pitching allowed just three hits to the Spartans.
With the Phoenix’s hot start this season, Holliman said the vibe in the clubhouse has been extremely positive.
“I want to keep this win streak going,” Holliman said. “Everyone is feeling really good right now, so keeping that positive energy.”
The Phoenix will head to Towson, Maryland, this weekend for a three-game series, facing a Colonial Athletic Association opponent in the Tigers.