This victory was the highest ranked win for the Phoenix since it defeated No. 1 Clemson in 2002. It also marked the highest ranked opponent Elon has ever beaten at home, and the program’s first home victory against Wake Forest since 2012.
Sophomore right fielder Kenny Mallory Jr. said tonight's game was a huge win for Elon’s program.
"I'm still in shock," Mallory Jr. said. "We have worked so hard."
Graduate student right-handed pitcher Joe Sprake started for the Phoenix for the second time this season. During the first inning, the Phoenix struggled to gain defensive ground, giving up three runs, one being scored on a throwing error from graduate student catcher Luke Stephenson.
Head coach Mike Kennedy said the team had to execute to win, and it did just that through the remainder of the game.
The Phoenix bats began silent, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the second. Just over an inning later, redshirt junior second baseman Tanner Holliman powered a solo home run in front of the center field video board, marking his eighth on the season, the most of any Phoenix player.
“Holliman’s home run gave us some energy in the fourth inning,” Kennedy said.
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, sophomore left fielder Charlie Granatell stepped up to the plate with one out and hit a bullet, making it safe to second and exciting the dugout.
“I was trying to be patient, get my pitch, and get the boys going,” Granatell said.
Following Granatell’s double was a double by Mallory Jr., which scored Granatell and cut Elon’s deficit to 3-2. Freshman designated hitter Ryan Sprock then hit a single, which scored Mallory Jr. to tie the game 3-3. Junior first baseman Cole Reynolds then reached base with a slow ground ball to second base, which advanced Sprock to second.
With one out, Stephenson drilled a single to right field to score Sprock and give the Phoenix its first lead of the night at 4-3. With a man on first and third, junior center fielder Justin Cassella hit a ground ball into a fielder’s choice, which allowed Reynolds to score and tack on one more run for the Phoenix and take the lead to 5-3.
“We did a lot of great things,” Kennedy said. “Being able to piece together that inning and score four was huge for us offensively.”
During the game between the Phoenix and the Demon Deacons earlier this season on March 21, the Phoenix was unable to get on the board at all and used 10 relief pitchers in a 20-0 loss, which Mallory Jr. said the team knew it could improve upon.
“We erased that game, we don’t even think about the last time we played Wake,” Mallory Jr. said. “We are better than what we showed that day, and we proved it here tonight.”
Tonight, five relief pitchers were used after Sprake, all of which threw scoreless outings. Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Spencer Bauer picked up the win and junior right-handed pitcher Ben Simon completed the save in the top of the ninth, his sixth of the season. Kennedy said he was proud of the bullpen for its turnaround.
“They all did well, our bullpen was great,” Kennedy said.
Mallory Jr. said he kept looking for a good pitch in order to help his team out in any way he could. Feeding off of the crowd’s energy also impacted Mallory Jr. as the park was electric, even from the first pitch.
“It was loud in here so it was amazing,” Mallory Jr. said.
Elon partnered with the Burlington Sock Puppets during tonight's game and had the mascot in the crowd exciting fans.
“It definitely fuels us,” Granatell said. “During a game like this, it is awesome.”
The Phoenix will return to Colonial Athletic Association play this weekend when it takes on in-state rival University of North Carolina Wilmington in a three-game series beginning April 7.
“Anything can happen in baseball,” Mallory Jr. said. “We are going to prepare and get ready for them.”