The Elon University softball team could not overcome a slow start against the Liberty University Flames on Tuesday, as the Phoenix lost 10-1 at Hunt Park. 

Elon trailed 5-0 after three innings and 8-0 entering the bottom of the fifth. The Phoenix scored a run to avoid the mercy rule and keep the game alive but could not chip away any further. The Flames hit a home run off the flagpole in center field in the top of the seventh to put the game away. 

The Phoenix committed three errors, including two in the opening two frames, that helped Liberty build a commanding early lead. Head coach Kathy Bocock said the early defensive mistakes were detrimental against a team as strong as Liberty, which has two wins over Power Five competition this season. 

“When we’re giving up runs early in the game, it’s not good,” Bocock said. “Defensively, we’ve got to get better.” 

After playing a doubleheader on the road two days ago against Hampton University, the team did not spend much time yesterday on defensive drills. Bocock said they will focus heavily on fielding and defense before their two games against Duke University this weekend. 

“I think that’s hurting us if we don’t play a little defense the day before we play, but they’ve got to be good enough to do that,” Bocock said. “They know we’ve got to work on some stuff.”

After playing a conference series each of the last three weekends, the Phoenix is currently in a five-game stretch of non-conference matchups. With no conference games on the schedule until April 15, Bocock said these five contests will give Elon an opportunity to stay sharp before returning to Colonial Athletic Association play. 

Elon’s lone run came on a bases loaded sacrifice fly by first baseman Claudia Penny. The senior’s 30 RBIs this season are the most on the team and 12 more than the next highest total. Liberty outhit the Phoenix 12-2, as Elon’s two hits were the team’s third fewest in a game this season. 

Sophomore Isley Duggins started in the circle for Elon. She surrendered four earned runs in two innings of work. Senior Kaitlin King pitched the final five innings for the Phoenix. 

Elon will play two games against Duke this weekend. The Phoenix will travel to Durham on Friday and will host the Blue Devils on Saturday.