Head coach Mike Kennedy said he felt relief after the final pitch was thrown.
“We just needed a good outing,” Kennedy said. “We needed some positive energy, and I think we got that.”
Freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Mitrovich took to the mound for the Phoenix and provided the team with a strong outing and the ability to stay in the game.
“I love that kid and he competes,” Kennedy said. “When he goes out there, you're very comfortable that he's going to give you his best and he's going to fight, and that's what he did again tonight.”
Tonight’s batting order was a bit different for the Phoenix, with redshirt junior third baseman Connor Coolahan taking the leadoff spot over sophomore right fielder Charlie Granatell, who slid into fifth. Kennedy said Coolahan’s on-base percentage, which is currently sitting at .491, is what he factored into the change.
“We said, ‘Hey, let's just give him a shot and see if he can jumpstart us a little bit,’’ Kennedy said. “He got on base four times today, so obviously he did a good job up there, but we were just trying to find a way to create a little more offense. Maybe work some counts earlier in the game to stretch a pitcher out a little bit.”
The first action of the game came off of junior first baseman Cole Reynolds’ no doubt home run, his sixth of the season, which put the Phoenix on the board first with a lead that would be carried out through the end of the ball game. Kennedy said that getting out early was important.
“We're pretty good when we score first, we tend to play much better, but that was huge,” Kennedy said.
The Phoenix extended its lead in the bottom of the fifth off of Coolahan’s sacrifice bunt, which scored junior center fielder Justin Cassella. A batter later, fifth year catcher Luke Stephenson hit an RBI double, the first of a big night for him.
“It was good to see that come out of him, but he's working,” Kennedy said. “He keeps working and it's paying off.”
Mitrovich finished his outing in the top of the sixth, getting through two thirds of an inning but giving up two runs. Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Spencer Bauer came in, shutting the door on Stony Brook’s base runners with a strikeout.
The scoring only continued in the bottom of the sixth, which was started by a double off of junior left fielder Connor Offshack’s bat. All with two outs, junior shortstop James Broderick walked, Coolahan was hit by a pitch and with nowhere to put him, freshman designated hitter Ryan Sprock walked in another run.
The game flew wide open in Elon’s favor as Stephenson smoked a two-run double to left field.
“I was just trying to hit a slider, slow myself down enough to be on time for it and I ended up making that adjustment throughout the game, which helped me do that,” Stephenson said. “My first couple of at bats I was really out in front, so I think it was an in-game adjustment, just trying to slow myself down.”
A pitching change for Stony Brook gave Elon two more walks before redshirt junior second baseman Tanner Holliman, who flied out to start the inning, tacked on two-more runs with an RBI single, bringing the score to 9-2. A Seawolves error then allowed the Phoenix to score one more before the inning was over.
The Seawolves answered with three runs off of Bauer in the top of the seventh, which Kennedy attributed to him not being warm enough after sitting in the dugout during the big inning prior.
“I thought he battled and grinded through it and got us through the night and did a really good job, but I'm not going to read into that eighth inning too much,” Kennedy said. “Because I do think he sat too long, and that's kind of on us. We should have had him up, throwing a little earlier to just keep him loose.”
The Phoenix answered right back in the bottom of the frame with three more runs from Stephenson’s sacrifice fly and Granatell reaching on an error, scoring Reynolds and Sprock.
To begin the bottom of the eighth, Cassella hit his eighth home run of the season, as the dugout continued to roar.
“Winning is fun, and when you do have those kinds of at bats and when you hit the long ball, it permeates throughout the entire dugout,” Kennedy said. “It’s why you play it, to enjoy the game.”
Redshirt junior Bryce Jeske pinch hit an RBI double, setting the stage once again for Stephenson. He delivered, crushing a three-run home run to further the Phoenix lead 18-5.
“When you connect with one and your team's freaking out, it’s a lot of fun,” Stephenson said. “Hitting a homerun in college baseball, it just turns into a huge party.”
Stephenson ended his impressive night with seven RBIs, the most of his career with the Phoenix. Junior right-handed pitcher Ben Sieracki came in to close out the ninth, and worked into and out of trouble giving up two leadoff walks but striking out three batters.
The Phoenix will look to take the series tomorrow, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. Stephenson said he’s hoping to carry the energy from tonight into tomorrow.
“The camaraderie of this team is incredible, I've never had this much fun playing baseball,” Stephenson said. “A lot of guys have said that with this team. So just keep it going. But we're all enjoying it right now.”