In a mid-week matchup, the Elon University baseball team was unable to obtain its high-energy drive to top the Gardner-Webb University Bulldogs, falling 12-2 in eight innings at Latham Park. 

Junior right-handed pitcher Ben Sieracki started on the mound for the Phoenix, marking his second start of the 2022-23 season. He pitched a clean first two innings, but back-to-back singles in the top of the third ended his outing, and graduate student right-handed pitcher Joe Sprake came in for relief.

The Bulldogs capitalized and got on board first, jumping to a 2-0 lead by the end of the inning. Head coach Mike Kennedy said he was dumbfounded by what he saw during the matchup. 

"I did not see that coming, for as good as I think we've played and as talented as I think we are, to have that kind of effort is really shocking," Kennedy said. 

The Phoenix responded in the bottom half of the frame when junior center fielder Justin Cassella reached on an error and advanced to second. Junior shortstop James Broderick walked, having two men on for sophomore right fielder Kenny Mallory Jr., who drilled a single. Bases were left loaded for sophomore left fielder Charlie Granatell who hit a sacrifice fly, making the score 2-1.

The Phoenix grounded into two double plays in prior innings and left two men on base during the bottom of the third, something Kennedy and Cassella said was frustrating.

"We didn't come out here with enough energy," Cassella said. 

During the top of the fourth, the Bulldogs tacked on one more, making it 3-1. The Phoenix could not respond with anything during the bottom of the fourth, hitting into their third double play of the night. 

"We got down a little bit early, but I think we had more than enough time to come back," Cassella said. 

The Phoenix bullpen gave up four-runs during both the top of the fifth and sixth inning. Sprake gave up two runs, before junior right-handed pitcher Ben Simon was called in for relief. After two pitches, Simon gave up a two-run blast as the Bulldogs increased the lead 7-1.

"It started in the beginning," Kennedy said. "We were down and never tried to get back in it."

To leadoff the bottom of the fifth, Cassella crushed a solo home run, his sixth of the year, as he fought to keep the Phoenix alive.

"It felt good, but we were still down at that point, so I knew we had a lot of work to go," Cassella said. "Some games just don't go your way early, and it's hard to get that momentum back."

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Sean O'Connell came in to pitch after Simon and gave up two runs in two thirds innings. With the score standing at 9-2, Kennedy made another call to the bullpen, bringing in redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Joe Savino.

"We didn't have anybody really come out and go, ‘Enough is enough. I'm going to slam the door. Let's try and build some momentum,’" Kennedy said. "We didn't pitch very good. I don't think we did much of any good, honestly." 

To end the top of the sixth, Savino gave up two singles, breaking open the Bulldog's lead 11-2. 

"It snowballed," Kennedy said. "I thought there was a tight zone behind the plate."

The Phoenix was unable to convert any runs throughout the rest of the game, leaving 11 total runners on base. Kennedy said the lack of offense was unexpected, especially after beating the Bulldogs 7-5 Feb. 21. 

"The energy seems a bit down, and that is surprising," Kennedy said. "We’ve got to get right back up and go back to work." 

During the top of the eighth, sophomore right-handed pitcher Sam DiLella gave up one more run. The Phoenix bats did not produce yet again, and the team closed the game out 12-2, losing in eight innings by the ten-run rule. 

The Phoenix looks to host Stony Brook University for a three-game weekend series at Latham Park beginning April 21.

Both Cassella and Kenendy are looking to wipe the slate clean with Colonial Athletic Association play on the horizon.

"We usually have a great mindset coming into games, so just keep that same thing rolling, and we'll be alright," Cassella said.