The Elon University baseball team faced an in-state foe in the High Point Panthers for a rematch at home in its final midweek game. The last time these two met, the Phoenix delivered a 7-3 comeback victory, but Elon was defeated tonight 13-7.
Prior to the start of the game, members of Elon’s club baseball team took the field with a moment of silence and a memorial video for teammate Jackson Yelle, who died April 30 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Things started off strong in the first two innings for the Phoenix, but slowly became dominated by the Panthers and were unable to get things going throughout the night. Redshirt junior second baseman Tanner Holliman said he was disappointed in the team’s performance.
“Horrible night,” Holliman said. “Terrible game, basically got beaten in every facet of the game.”
Freshman pitcher Sam Nomura was ready to go, as he struck out the first batter he faced in his first career start. The next two batters were retired, and the game moved into the bottom of the first.
Sophomore right fielder Charlie Granatell had the first hit of the day at Latham Park with a single to center field. Before junior first baseman Cole Reynolds reached via walk, Granatell stole second. Fifth year catcher Luke Stephenson stepped up to the plate with the two runners on but hit into a double play. This was the start of Elon’s theme of stranding runners in the game, as they had 10 players left on base in the game.
Head coach Mike Kennedy said it’s harder for the pitching staff without offensive help.
“We’re so inconsistent,” Kennedy said. “We had a runner at second base three times today with nobody out and didn’t even move them, let alone score.”
The top of the second inning remained scoreless. Nomura allowed a single, but he used a strikeout and a quick defensive grab and toss to first to escape the inning.
To open up the bottom of the second, freshman designated hitter Ryan Sprock drove a long double to center field that just missed going over the outfield wall. Sprock waited patiently at second base for a Phoenix hit, but to no avail.
A single paired with a walk from the Panthers would open the offensive force from High Point. Although there were two strikeouts from Nomura, he could not make a stop. A single brought in the first run of the day, but the Panthers wouldn’t stop there. They smashed a three-run home run to make the score 4-0 in the top of the third.
Elon looked to answer and began chipping at the deficit. Junior center fielder Justin Cassella and Granatell were both hit by pitches and put runners on first and second with only one out. Cassella was able to score on a throwing error to put the Phoenix on the board, but Granatell was left on base for the second time in the game. The score sat at 4-1 in favor of the Panthers going into the top of the fourth.
Graduate student pitcher Joe Sprake entered the game in relief for Nomura. Sprake retired the batters three up, three down with a strikeout to send the game to the bottom of the fourth.
Sprock added another leadoff hit with a single to left field. Sprock made his way to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a fielder’s choice. Redshirt junior third baseman Connor Coolahan added a runner at first with a walk. Sprock finally touched home because of the pitcher’s balk, and Coolahan advanced to second, but the runner was once again stranded.
A string of four singles in a row tacked on three runs for High Point in the top of the fifth, with the Panthers increasing their lead to 7-2. Holliman said the game tonight was an uphill battle for Elon.
“It’s tough to get stuff going when you’re down seven runs or whatnot,” Holliman said. “I think overall, myself included, we all missed a bunch of opportunities.”
Cassella walked to start the bottom of the fifth and stole second, opening the door for Reynolds to bring him home with an RBI single. Stephenson looked for redemption from the first inning and smoked a double down the right field line to the corner to score Reynolds as the Phoenix now only trailed by three runs.
The sixth inning was scoreless, the first since the second, as only one High Point hit and a single by junior left fielder Connor Offshack were recorded.
Junior pitcher Ben Sieracki was now on the mound for Elon and High Point was ready to do more damage. After a leadoff double and an RBI single, Sieracki was replaced after 1.1 innings of play by redshirt freshman pitcher Itai Spinoza. Spinoza was unable to get his footing and allowed three runs off four hits before junior pitcher Ethan Haislip took over. Kennedy said the team has to be more competitive on the mound.
“We just got to stay away from the big innings,” Kennedy said. “We’re giving away too many big innings and those are hard to come back from.”
As the Elon players sat in the dugout down 11-4, Holliman looked to create a spark. The Phoenix added two more runs off Holliman’s two-run blast over the outfield wall, his eleventh of the season. Holliman said he was trying to get something going for his team.
“It’s tough,” Holliman said. “I missed a lot of opportunities earlier in the day, so I feel like I was just trying to fight.”
Haislip would allow one hit in the top of the eight — a two-run home run to add to the Panthers offensive onslaught. The Phoenix was able to get the much needed two outs to move into the bottom of the ninth to stop the Panthers from adding anymore runs for the night.
Coolahan reached on his second walk of the night and was brought in by a single from Granatell, with the Phoenix still down 13-7.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Christo Garrelts entered the game for the Phoenix as the sixth and final pitcher of the night in the top of the night. Garrelts had a quick inning to try and give Elon a chance.
Holliman singled with two outs and was moved to third by a double by Offshack. Both were left stranded with a strikeout ending the game. Kennedy said the team will look to make adjustments before this weekend and the end of the regular season to help prepare for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
“We’re two weekends away from possibly winning the conference championship,” Kennedy said. “We’re right there. And we’re also two weekends away from probably having the greatest collapse ever and maybe not even getting into the tournament.”
Elon will look to turn things around this weekend at Latham Park with its final home series in three games against the North Carolina A&T Aggies. The first game is May 12, and first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.