ELON, N.C. – The Elon University softball team opens the 2017 season this Friday, Feb. 10, in a three-game series versus Hampton at Hunt Softball Park. The Phoenix and the Lady Pirates face off at 4 p.m. on Friday before concluding Opening Weekend with a twin bill on Saturday, Feb. 11, beginning at noon.
Follow the Phoenix
Fans can keep up with the action of the Phoenix all season via live stats from the program’s schedule page at elonphoenix.com. Updates will also be provided on Twitter on @elonscores or the program’s handle, @ElonUSoftball.
Inside the Series: Hampton
Elon and Hampton have battled just three times on the softball diamond in a series that dates back to 1998. The Phoenix owns an unblemished 3-0 mark against the Lady Pirates with the most recent matchup coming in 2015 with Elon prevailing with a 4-3 victory in extra innings. Then-freshman Hannah Olson provided the walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning for the maroon and gold in that contest.
Leading Off for Elon
• The Phoenix ended last year with a 26-25 record, marking the first consecutive winning seasons for the program since 2010 and 2011 and the first under sixth-year head coach Kathy Bocock.
• Under Bocock, Elon owns a 4-1 record in season and home openers while outscoring its opponents 33-17 in those contests.
• Elon is scheduled for 30 games at its fifth-year home facility, Hunt Softball Park, in 2017. Since opened in 2013, the Phoenix has owned a 69-34 mark on its home field including a 17-7 ledger in 2016.
• The Phoenix welcomes back all but two letterwinners from its 2016 squad. Among some of the notable returners includes junior Kara Shutt, who was a first team All-Colonial Athletic Association and NFCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region selection last year.
• Elon is slated for 56-games for its 2017 campaign including eight contests against programs from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Phoenix will also have four matchups versus teams that reached the 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament.
Elon Tabbed Fifth in Preseason CAA Poll
The Phoenix was tabbed to finish fifth in the 2017 Colonial Athletic Association Preseason poll as conducted by the league coaches. James Madison was selected as the unanimous preseason favorite for the third consecutive year with 49 points and seven first-place votes. Towson earned the remaining first-place vote and finished second in the poll with 41 points. Both College of Charleston and Hofstra received 32 points for third place, with Elon (27) and Delaware (19) following in order. UNCW (17) and Drexel (seven) rounded out the poll. Elon will look to return to the CAA Tournament for the third straight season which will be held in Harrisonburg, Va., in 2017 at JMU’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Scouting the Phoenix
Bocock and the Phoenix returns 94 percent of its RBI production for 2017 as 12 players return who accounted for 192 of Elon’s 204 RBI total in 2016. Offensively, Elon batted .281 last season, its highest average since 2011, while also accounting its highest RBI output since that same year. The Phoenix also scored 242 runs in 2016, which ranked fifth in the CAA.
Shutt is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign in which she led the Phoenix in batting average (.399), slugging percentage (.601), runs scored (37), hits (69) and tied the team-lead with four triples. The Greensboro, N.C., set a new single-season school record with 21 doubles and finished the year second in the nation in doubles per game at 0.41.
In the circle, Elon brings back three players who threw at least one inning last season. Junior Kiandra Mitchum has the most experience among the Phoenix hurlers and went 4-5 with a 3.61 ERA in 81.1 innings in 2016. The Hanover, Va., native ended last season on a high note with a CAA All-Tournament team selection.
Scouting the Lady Pirates
Hampton is coming off a 20-28 campaign in 2016 and ended the season third in the Northern Division of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) with a 11-7 record. This season, the Lady Pirates were tabbed to finish third again in the South Division in the 2017 MEAC Preseason Poll. Head coach Angie Nicholson begins her first season at the helm of the Hampton softball program.
Last season, Hampton batted .289 with 19 home runs and 206 RBI. Sarah Kollas is the top hitter for the Lady Pirates with her .313 average that she put up in 2016. Jada Fields is the returning RBI producer for Hampton with 31 RBI from last season. Allie Hotetz saw the most time in the circle for the Lady Pirates with 168.1 innings pitched with a 12-16 record and a 5.20 ERA. Overall, Hampton’s pitching staff had a 5.53 ERA in 2016 with 144 strikeouts.
Elon hits the road for a contest at in-state and ACC opponent North Carolina next Wednesday, Feb. 15. That game is slated for a 4 p.m. opening pitch.