ELON, N.C. – The Elon University softball team bounced back from a tough outing on opening day to earn a twin bill sweep versus North Carolina Central on Saturday, Feb. 10, to conclude its opening weekend at Hunt Softball Park. The Phoenix started the day with a 5-4 come-from-behind extra inning victory in game one before holding off the Eagles in game two also 5-4.
The wins today evened the Phoenix’s record to 2-2 on the young season after Elon suffered a pair of losses to fellow intrastate rival Charlotte on its season opener on Friday, Feb. 9. The maroon and gold also improved its all-time record versus the Eagles (0-2) to 12-0 in the series.
Game One: Elon 5, N.C. Central 4 (10)
North Carolina Central put the Phoenix in danger of its third straight loss after putting up a two-spot in the top of the second to take the early 2-0 advantage. A two-out single down the right field line by the Eagles put the maroon and gold in the early hole.
NCCU added another two-run inning in the top of the fourth frame. After the leadoff batter reached on a Phoenix miscue, she was joined on the bases by another runner on a single to right center. Elon recovered to induce the next two outs, but the Eagles plated two runs on a single to left field to push its lead to 4-0.
Elon started to rally in the home half of the sixth, plating three runs to jump back into the contest. Back-to-back singles from Kara Shutt and Erica Serafini led off the frame to put two on for the Phoenix. With one out in the frame, Elon tacked on its first runs of the contest thanks to a RBI double from Kristin Hoover to left field. Shutt scored on the play, but an errant throw from the left fielder also enabled Serafini to also tag the plate to cut the Phoenix’s deficit to two. Hoover later crossed home plate after Katrina Martin reached on a fielder’s choice as she beat the tag at home plate. Despite the tying run on base with only one out, a rundown and a strikeout ended the frame for the Phoenix.
After Elon set the Eagles down in order at the top of the seventh, the Phoenix was in danger of also having the side retired in the bottom half after a grounder and Shutt coming to the plate. Shutt kept the Phoenix alive with a single to center giving the Phoenix the tying run on the base paths and setting the stage for Serafini. The junior came up clutch as the Tampa, Fla., native drilled a hard hit ball into the left center gap for a RBI triple with Shutt scoring easily to tie the game at four-all. Despite the winning run at third, Elon flied out on the next at bat as the game moved into extras.
The game became a pitcher’s duel with Elon’s Abby Barker and NCCU’s Courtney Mirabella not allowing a hit over the next two and a half frames. Barker however would get the Phoenix in position for the walk-off in the top of the 10th, tossing her sixth scoreless frame and inducing the final out on her sixth strikeout of the contest.
In the 10th with one out, Serafini reached base on a free pass, but was in danger of being stranded as another fly out sent the Phoenix to its final out and Hoover coming to the plate. The senior drove a 2-0 pitch into left center to drive in her fellow Florida native teammate Serafini as Elon survived game one with the 5-4 walk-off win.
The hit was Hoover’s third of the day as the Tampa, Fla., native was 3-for-5 in game one as Elon had eight total hits compared to seven for the Eagles. Hoover also had two doubles and two RBI in the contest. Barker (1-1) earned the win in relief for the Phoenix after pitching 6.0 innings and allowing one hit with six fanned batters. Her counterpart Mirabella (0-1) tossed a complete game and allowed eight hits, five runs, three earned, with eight strikeouts.
Game Two: Elon 5, N.C. Central 4
Elon opened the second contest with some small ball action to plate the first run in the bottom of the opening frame. Shutt led off with a bunt single and advanced all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt from Hannah Olson. Shutt scored to put the Phoenix up on another sac bunt courtesy of Serafini that gave Elon the early 1-0 advantage.
The Phoenix added four more runs to the scoreboard in the home half of the third. Back-to-back singles from Tia Mitchell and Shutt led off the inning before Olson drove in Mitchell on a single down the left field line. Both Shutt and Olson advanced into scoring position with Shutt coming home on the next at bat on Serafini’s grounder to the shortstop. Olson later came home on a RBI single from Hoover to put the Phoenix ahead 4-0. A wild pitch moved Hoover to second before she came across the plate after a NCCU miscue to give Elon a 5-0 advantage.
The Eagles did not go away quietly however as NCCU came back with four runs in the top of the seventh with most of those coming on a one-out, three-run home run. After the next batter was walked, she moved to third on a double to right center giving the Eagles runners in scoring position with only one out. An RBI single up the middle brought NCCU within one, 5-4, with runners now at the corners and still one out. However, the Phoenix was able to turn a double play on the next at bat preserving the victory.
Elon registered eight hits in the second game with Shutt (2-for-3) leading the way at the plate for the Phoenix. Serafini had two RBI in the contest. Elise Walton (1-0) earned her first win of the season after pitching 6.1 innings and gave up three hits and three runs with two earned. Hailey Jomp received the save in relief.
Elon is back in action to host North Carolina on Feb. 14, at Hunt Softball Park. Game time is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.