Prior to its game Wednesday against the East Carolina University Pirates, the Elon University softball team honored head coach Kathy Bocock with the game ball from her 278th win as the program’s head coach Feb. 19, as this was the first home game for the Phoenix since the milestone.
However, once the pre-game festivities ended, Elon was unable to win a 280th game in the Bocock era, as the Phoenix fell 5-1. Bocock said she thought the team was flat against the Pirates.
“We’ve got to come with more energy,” Bocock said. “Did we come to play or did we come to win? That’s the thing, we’re hanging around with some really good teams and we need to go ahead and finish them.”
As has been the case in each of its last four games, Elon fell behind early. The Pirates scored one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings to go ahead 3-0. While the Phoenix has already delivered three come-from-behind victories this season, Bocock said the team needs to start games better.
“All of a sudden once they get into the game for a little while, they start trying to make things happen when you can’t do that,” Bocock said. “That’s what we’re trying to get them to do is figure out if we need a different game plan, if we need a different way to warm up.”
Sophomore pitcher Isley Duggins started in the circle for the Phoenix and threw three innings. Down 2-0 entering the fourth, Elon made the switch to junior Meredith Wells. On the night, Elon allowed eight hits and seven walks in addition to committing three errors. Three of East Carolina’s five runs were unearned.
This was the third time in the last seven games Elon has allowed at least eight walks, which matches the team’s total from its 52-game campaign in 2022.
“We’ve got to do a little better job with pitch selection,” Bocock said. “We can’t get behind in counts and we can’t give up free bases.”
Elon also struggled at the plate, tallying just three hits against Pirates junior pitcher Addy Bullis, who threw a complete game. One of the hits was a solo home run off the bat of sophomore center fielder Chloe Hatzopoulos in the bottom of the fifth inning which cut Elon’s deficit to 3-1.
After striking out on three pitches in her first at-bat, Hatzopoulos said her focus in plate appearance in the fifth inning was to be more disciplined. For Hatzopoulos, Elon’s struggles on offense were more about themselves rather than anything Bullis was doing in the circle.
“She had some good movement but honestly, I don’t think it’s anything that should beat us,” Hatzopoulos said. “I think it was in our own heads and we weren’t as disciplined as we should have been at the plate.”
Hatzopoulos’ home run opened the door for Elon but the Phoenix could not walk through it. A wild pitch by Wells with two outs in the sixth allowed the Pirates to tack on a fourth run. With two runners on base and the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, sophomore third baseman Allee Seering popped up with two outs to end the scoring chance.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the top of the seventh and went ahead 5-1 after Wells hit an East Carolina batter with a pitch. Wells got out of the inning, but the Pirates retired the Phoenix in order to close out the game in the bottom of the frame.
East Carolina entered the game with a 12-3 record and is part of Elon’s challenging non-conference schedule. With the first Colonial Athletic Association series less than two weeks away, Hatzopoulos said playing games against quality non-conference opponents will help the team going forward.
“It’s really good that we’re playing these teams,” Hatzopoulos said. “It’s helping us learn from our mistakes and learn what we can do better because these teams are tough, but conference is going to be tough too. It’s preparing us for that moment.”
Elon will look to snap its four-game losing streak this weekend, as the Phoenix will face the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in a three-game series.