Sophomore left fielder Chloe Hatzopoulos saw four pitches during the Elon University softball team’s first game of its Friday doubleheader against North Carolina A&T University. She hit three of them over the fence for home runs.
Entering Friday, Hatzopoulos had just one hit in her last nine at-bats. She said her goal against the Aggies was to attack first pitches. Attack is exactly what she did, as two of her three home runs in Elon’s 9-0 mercy-rule win came on the first pitch.
“I was really seeing the ball well,” Hatzopoulos said. “I was thinking to attack on the first pitch. Recently, I’ve been letting some good ones go by, so I was just ready to hit the ball today and attack.”
Hatzopoulos scored Elon’s first run of the day in the third inning with a solo home run to left field on the first pitch she saw. She followed it up in the top of the fourth with a two-run blast to left-center on the second pitch that scored two runs and put the Phoenix ahead 5-0.
With two home runs on the day already, Hatzopoulos stepped up to the plate in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded. The sophomore stuck to her gameplan and attacked the first pitch, which she said was higher up in the zone than the other two pitches she hit out.
As the ball flew through down the left field line and toward the outfield fence, Hatzopoulos said she was unsure if it would carry out of the park. She also did not realize when she came to the plate that she had a chance to hit a grand slam.
“I didn’t even realize the bases were loaded,” Hatzopoulos said. “I just tried to stay calm and do my thing.”
With the grand slam, Hatzopoulos became the first Elon player to hit three home runs in the same game since Megan White did so against Drexel University on April 20, 2019, 171 games ago. Her grand slam put the Phoenix up 9-0 and set the team up for the mercy-rule win.
“There’s not much you can say, she had a great day,” head coach Kathy Bocock said. “I think it helps with her confidence and with our whole team’s confidence.”
Seven of Elon’s RBIs in game one came off the bat of Hatzopoulos, whose nine home runs this season are the most on the team. Sophomore pitcher McKenna McCard logged five shutout innings in the circle for the Phoenix before fellow sophomore Isley Duggins secured the final three outs of the win.
While winning the first leg of doubleheaders has not been a problem for Elon this season, the Phoenix has struggled in game twos. Elon had lost three of its last four entering Friday.
The Phoenix quickly put its game-two woes to rest, plating five runs in the first inning and going all the way through the batting lineup in the opening frame to pull away from the Aggies early. Elon went on to earn another mercy-rule win, finishing off North Carolina A&T in five innings with a 12-4 final score.
“The second game has been a curse for us,” Bocock said. “We were trying to figure out a way to make sure we came ready to play the second game and I think the girls did a great job.”
Hatzopoulos tacked on two more RBIs in the opening inning surge off a single that narrowly made it past the third baseman’s glove. She said jumping out to such a strong start in the second game was important given their recent struggles in game twos.
“Bringing that energy from game one was crucial to this win,” Hatzopoulos said. “Game twos have not been going in our favor. I think that first inning really helped us get going.”
After a pair of scoreless innings, Elon’s offense exploded again in the fourth and fifth innings, as the Phoenix scored seven runs to take a commanding lead. Six different Elon players drove in runs and nine different players combined for 14 hits.
McCard started again for the Phoenix and threw three innings, as she finished the day allowing just one run in eight frames. Junior Meredith Wells tossed the final two innings for Elon.
Elon has relied heavily on McCard in Colonial Athletic Association play, as the sophomore has started five of the team’s last seven contests. McCard was credited with both wins on Friday as she now has a team-best nine on the season and her 2.38 ERA is the best on the team.
With the two victories, Elon clinched a top-four seed at next week’s CAA Tournament, meaning the Phoenix will not have to play on the opening day of the event.
“That’s huge,” Hatzopoulos said. “It gives us a day to rest and get ready to give our all at the tournament.”
This was the first time Elon has earned two mercy-rule victories on the same day since the Phoenix defeated Drexel University in a pair of five-inning games in April 2018.
Elon will face North Carolina A&T again Saturday to close out its regular season. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.