After being no-hit by Duke University yesterday, the Elon University softball team took to the field at Hunt Softball Park with a newfound fire underneath them. The Phoenix wasted no time getting the lead and shut out the North Carolina Central Eagles 8-0 in five innings.
Head coach Kathy Bocock said she was proud of the team for bouncing back from yesterday’s loss as well as the midweek struggles the Phoenix had faced earlier in the season.
“It was a Tuesday game, and we haven't been playing the greatest on Tuesday games, so we've been talking about coming out here prepared to play,” Bocock said. “I thought we did a good job. They came ready to play.”
Sophomore McKenna McCard started in the circle for the Phoenix and began the game pitching three up, three down.
In the bottom of the frame, the Phoenix went straight to work to reverse its hitting woes from yesterday. The first hit came off senior first baseman Claudia Penny’s bat for an RBI double down the left field line, scoring senior center fielder Drew Menscer, who walked earlier in the inning. Bocock said Penny’s offensive production, as she leads the Phoenix with 37 RBIs, has been key for the success of the team.
“This whole year, it’s her senior year, and I think she's very locked in and she's just taking it one game and one at-bat at a time, and she's doing a really nice job for us,” Bocock said.
Immediately following, Penny was brought home by senior Carley Davis’ single, increasing the lead 2-0, which the Phoenix would never let go of throughout the rest of the game. Senior infielder Megan Grant said she was proud of the team for getting on the board early.
“We had great swings, disciplined at the plate,” Grant said. “We did a great job coming out attacking the ball today. Especially yesterday, not putting up a hit or run, we came out today in the first inning and showed them what we can do.”
McCard gave up a walk to start the second but struck out the following three batters. She dominated the Eagles, totaling four strikeouts and no hits in her two innings pitched, holding the only runner to first base.
Leading off the bottom of the second was sophomore left fielder Chloe Hatzopoulos, who was hit by a pitch, the first Phoenix base runner to begin a breakthrough inning. Freshman designated player Payton Swart walked and advanced on a wild pitch, meaning runners on second and third with no outs for Grant.
Seizing opportunity, Grant laced a bases clearing double to right center field, starting the scoring momentum for the Phoenix. Grant said she credits her team for getting on base and giving her opportunity to come up in big situations.
“It was awesome,” Grant said. “If those two runners weren't on, I wouldn’t have been able to do that, so I’ve got to give credit to my team where it’s due.”
But the scoring didn’t stop there for the Phoenix, as the bats continued to string together hits, tallying four more runs off sophomore third baseman Allee Seering, Davis and sophomore right fielder Kaitlyn Wells’ RBI singles. Bocock said putting hits together was important to build momentum.
“Offensively we've had some struggles a little bit, we've been leaving a lot of people on base,” Bocock said. “So for them, we've been focusing on just trying to put the ball in play so we're not leaving people on base, and I think we did a good job with that.”
The six runs brought the score to 8-0 in Elon’s favor by the top of the third, as junior Meredith Wells took the ball in relief of McCard. Earning the win, she pitched for two innings, with two hits and two strikeouts.
In the top of the fifth, senior Kaitlin King came in to pitch, giving up two early hits, putting runners on second and third. The next Eagles batter hit deep into center field, and Menscer threw a bullet to freshman catcher Mary Moss Wirt, perfectly placing the tag and keeping the shutout effort intact with the double play.
“Drew is a go-getter,” Bocock said. “As soon as she caught that, I knew she was thinking ‘I’m going to throw that ball home.’ That’s just Drew. And Mary Moss coming in, being a freshman and getting some catching time, she stepped up there and made a great play for us.”
The following batter grounded out, ending the game with the 8-0 run rule for the Phoenix’s 18th overall victory over NC Central, an undefeated record dating back to 2011.
The Phoenix will return to Colonial Athletic Association play this weekend, facing University of North Carolina, Wilmington at home for a three-game series. The Seahawks are currently ranked second in the CAA and defeated the Phoenix in the championship last season.
“They're a tough team,” Grant said. “Our mindset is definitely to come out, attack as hard as we can and win as much as we can. We know that they're good competition, and we’ve got to do our best and give our best every chance we get.”