The Elon University softball team entered Hunt Softball Park to face the University of North Carolina, Wilmington Seahawks in the rubber match of the three-game weekend series. After splitting the doubleheader yesterday, the Phoenix came in hungry and ready to play, defeating the Seahawks 7-5 in comeback fashion. Head coach Kathy Bocock said she knew this was an important weekend for the team.
“That’s a big series for us to win,” Bocock said. “We knew we were gonna have to come in and we knew it was gonna be a battle for either team so we just tried to stick to our plan. And it played out.”
Junior pitcher Meredith Wells started in the circle for the Phoenix. Starting off strong by striking out the first batter and getting the second out, UNCW was not going to let the inning end quite yet. Back-to-back singles allowed the Seahawks to capitalize on sophomore Reagan Hartley’s error in right field to bring in three runs.
The Phoenix now faced yet another uphill battle to try and get the comeback win against its in-state rival. Bocock said this did not discourage her team but got them ready for the rest of the game.
“That happened at the top of the first,” Bocock said. “We’ve got a lot of at bats and we’re just gonna take one thing at a time and stay on track.”
Senior third baseman Megan Grant and sophomore second baseman Allee Seering both struck out on full counts. Senior center fielder Drew Menscer was the only player to reach base via a walk in the home half of the inning, but this didn’t stop the Phoenix.
The defense made quick work of the Seahawks’ bottom of the order including a backhanded snag by senior shortstop Bella Devesa and the throw to first base for the out.
Today’s game kept the switch of moving Grant to third base and Seering to second. Grant said this move helped the Phoenix come up big.
“We knew that it was just something we had to do today,” Grant said. “We were both confident in each other, we’re confident in our teammates, so we were happy to do it and we’re rolling with it.”
Grant caught the line drive off the UNCW bat and got the out at first in the top of the third. In the next at-bat, Grant caught the lazer hit for the third out, momentum she would carry into the bottom of the inning.
“I knew that there's a high chance of that coming to me,” Grant said. “So just being mentally prepared and coming in that game with confidence and knowing I could make those plays helped out a lot.”
Grant had a leadoff double and advanced to third off Menscer’s sacrifice bunt, but was now the third Phoenix player to be left on base.
Errors on the defensive side lead to the Seahawks scoring another run, making the score 4-0. Elon was able to escape the inning by catching the UNCW base runner stealing to go into the bottom of the fourth. Bocock emphasized the need to practice and clean up on defense for both the rest of the game and for the final series of the season.
“We'll just do like we always do,” Bocock said. “Come back out and work defensive and we'll work. We pretty much stick to the plan all week. We just got to get lots of reps and just keep building ourselves and just making sure that there's nothing that they can't do.”
Senior first baseman Claudia Penny walked to first to open the bottom of the inning and almost had the opportunity to reach second. Senior catcher Carley Davis laced the ball on the foul line, but was sent back by the umpire’s call. After Davis’ flyout to right field, sophomore designated player Kaitlyn Wells stepped into the box and cranked out a two run homerun, starting the comeback for the Phoenix.
Sophomore pitcher Isley Duggins came in for relief in the top of the fifth, inheriting one runner with no outs. Elon cleaned up on defense and geared up for the bottom of the inning.
Hartley’s single and Grant’s walk put runners on for Penny facing two outs. Penny whacked a two run double into the outfield to tie things up 4-4.
Duggins had a three up, three down inning including her first strikeout of the game. Elon was eager to step up in the bottom of the sixth. Devesa led off with a single and was moved to second by a hustle as sophomore left fielder Chloe Hatzopoulos reached on an error. Devesa and Hatzopoulos advanced on a wild pitch, and Hartley loaded up the bases for Grant.
Grant had the final out of yesterday’s loss leaving the winning runs aboard, and she was not going to let that happen again.
“The biggest thing is yesterday, they got Megan in that moment, right?,” Bocock said. “Today, I was like, ‘They're not going to get her back to back so I felt very good about Megan coming into that moment.’ And she handled it.”
Grant weaved a hard hit single up the middle past the pitcher to bring in the go-ahead run and keep the bases juiced.
“It made it so much easier that Reagan before me got on base and loaded those bases, I had full trust of my teammates,” Grant said. “So I just knew that I had to get the ball to the right side of the field, find a way to score that run in, and it ended up working out and finding the gap.”
Freshman Payton Swart entered the game in the top half of the inning, coming in at second base for Seering. Swart followed suit and placed the ball in almost the same spot up the middle as Grant’s and brought in two more runs for the Phoenix.
The score sat at 7-4 in Elon’s favor, but the Seahawks would not go down easy. UNCW tacked on another run, but was not able to come back, with the final score being 7-5.
The Phoenix looked forward to this series after losing to the Seahawks in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament final last season. Grant, who had to deal with the loss last year, was happy to come away with the win.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Grant said. “We knew that they were a good team, that they were gonna come in and push us to the best of our ability, but we came out here strong. We came out here, we competed and we did the best we could and that feeling of getting back out on the field and showing them who Elon softball is and what we can do on the field is super humbling and exciting.”
Bocock said she was happy to see the team battle back and work together to finish out the game.
“Our girls, they were on a mission and they knew what they wanted to do as a team,” Bocock said. “They trusted each other and that's the thing about this team. They play for one another and I think that's what's huge about this group.”
Elon will face another conference opponent next weekend in Hempstead, New York, against the Hofstra Pride as they move up to second in the CAA standings.
“We have a week to prepare before we get on the flight and head up to Hofstra,” Bocock said. “We're just trying to take it one game at a time and just try to stay within ourselves and just play Elon softball.”