Going for the series sweep and the eighth straight Colonial Athletic Association victory, the Elon University baseball team showed out strong, shutting out the Delaware Blue Hens 1-0. But the best part came after, when the team stayed to stand up in the fight against pediatric cancer, auctioning off haircuts to raise $7,738 for Vs. Cancer.
“This trumps everything we did on that field,” head coach Mike Kennedy said. “It's so cool to see our guys go all in and so many guys take part in it, and I think it's just a reflection of what kind of kids we have. They're good kids, and win or lose, sometimes you lose sight of that when you're competing, but these kids are awesome.”
Vs. Cancer is an organization that helps raise awareness and funds against pediatric cancer, specifically with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Child Life programs in various hospitals. One by one, players sat down in four barber chairs, and Kennedy, along with redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Sean O’Connell, took the microphone and began auctioning off haircuts.
Kennedy was coached under Rick Jones at Elon, the uncle of Chase Jones, who founded the organization in 2006. He said supporting Vs. Cancer is special to him.
“I know what they went through when he was diagnosed, having to handle that and then just see him handle it and turn it into something to help others,” Kennedy said. “It's just tremendous. Our kids know what it means, and they understand it, and they're all in, and they did another great job with it.”
After his day on the mound, freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Mitrovich took part in the fundraiser by shaving his head. He said it means a lot to him and his teammates.
“Not everyone's fortunate enough to do what we have the opportunity to do,” Mitrovich said. “Everyone has someone in mind that they can share the same kind of feeling towards them, and we're just happy we can share that with everyone else.”
Mitrovich led the charge for the Phoenix, pitching a career-high seven innings with eight strikeouts and no runs. Kennedy said he was impressed with his outing.
“He was just fastball, changeup, all over the zone,” Kennedy said. “He commanded both sides of the plate. That changeup is why he's pitching on the weekends, it’s so good. He was just in complete control today.”
Held scoreless through six, the Phoenix broke through in the bottom of the seventh, as sophomore left fielder Charlie Granatell doubled and came around to score on junior designated hitter Connor Offshack’s RBI single.
“We only needed one today, and we got it late, but Chuck hitting that double was huge, with one out, you’ve got to get in scoring position as early as you can,” Kennedy said. “Offshack had a big knock to score, just timely hitting when we needed it. We didn’t have much but we didn’t need much.”
To end the game, redshirt junior Spencer Bauer and junior Ben Simon pitched the final two scoreless innings, with Simon earning his fourth save on the season. Both players had family cheering them on in the crowd as their hair was buzzed.
The highest haircut bid went to freshman second baseman Lawson Wheeler, who combined for $400 in a pool from his teammates.
The win marked the Phoenix’s eight straight conference win and second straight conference sweep, as Elon stays on top of the CAA rankings with an 8-1 overall conference record. Kennedy commended his team for its efforts this season.
“We pitched it good all weekend, the bullpen was great, our starters were great,” Kennedy said. “We walked one guy in three games. Anytime you do that, you're going to have a chance to win. You want to score all the time, but you’ve got to figure out ways to win tight games, and we did that today. A really good weekend overall.”
The Phoenix will face USC Upstate at 6 p.m. March 28 at Latham Park before traveling to Towson, Maryland for the weekend series.
“We're on top of the world as a team right now,” Mitrovich said. “We're all happy enjoying each other's company, and hopefully we can just keep that up.”