Elon Softball Loses Pitchers’ Duel to No. 23 Virginia Tech, 2-1

ELON, N.C. – The Elon softball team saw its five-game winning streak snapped at the hands of No. 23 Virginia Tech (11-1) in the form of a 2-1 setback on Thursday, Feb. 28. The Phoenix (6-5) dropped its second game of the year at Hunt Softball Park, despite another strong outing from freshman pitcher Kayla Caruso.

Caruso (3-3) pitched her fourth consecutive complete game for the Phoenix, allowing only one earned run and striking out three batters. The Kennesaw, Ga., native went down to the wire with the Hokies, who came into the today’s matchup on an eight-game win streak.

On a day that was dedicated to Hunt Softball Park and its donors, Caruso and the Elon defense were able to get out of a jam late in the top of the first with runners in scoring position and two outs. Caruso was able to force the Virginia Tech batter to popup to end the inning.

Elon started strong with Carleigh Nester and Camille Hill reaching base on their first at-bats. Nester would get called out going to third after Tomeka Watson reached on a fielder’s choice. Virginia Tech starter Kelly Heinz was able to strike out the next two batters to end the inning.

After a scoreless second and top of the third, Elon would be the first to get on the board in the bottom of the third with Watson scoring on an Emily Cameron two-out single up the middle to give the Phoenix a 1-0. The Phoenix could not capitalize on the next at-bat, as Heinz added her fifth strikeout of the game to move into the top of the fourth.

Caruso fanned the first two batters to lead-off the inning, but Elon had trouble converting the last out. The Hokies would score to tie the game at 1-1 after back-to-back errors by the Phoenix before Caruso retired the next batter for the final out of the inning.

The Phoenix’s Grace Eng singled to lead off the bottom half of the fourth, forcing the Hokies to make a pitching change with Jasmine Harrell relieving Heinz. Amanda Allen proceeded to single on the next at-bat to give the Phoenix two on with no outs. Lauren Oldham advanced both runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt with the top of the lineup coming up for the Phoenix. Elon could not drive them home as Harrell forced Nester and Hill to ground out to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh, Virginia Tech’s Bkaye Smith led-off with a triple to move into scoring position. After the next two batters were walked to load the bases, Kelsey Mericka drew another walk to drive in the go-ahead run, 2-1.

Elon went down in order in the bottom half to fall to 5-2 at its new ballpark. The Hokies’ Harrell (6-0) earned the win after pitching 4.0 innings and allowing only one hit with three strikeouts. Starter Heinz pitched 3.0 innings, allowed one run, unearned, on eight hits.

On Deck
Elon will add a new opponent to its schedule this week as the Phoenix return to Hunt Softball Park to host Manhattan College in a doubleheader on Sunday, March 3. The first pitches are slated for 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

                   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  R  H  E
   Virginia Tech   0  0  0  1  0  0  1  2  6  1
   Elon            0  0  1  0  0  0  0  1  9  2

Win – Harrell, J. (6-0). Loss – Caruso (3-3). Save – None.
HBP – by Caruso (Gaskill, L.). Inherited runners/scored: Harrell, J. 1/0. Pitches/strikes: Heinz, K. 63/42;
Harrell, J. 57/39; Caruso 123/70.
Umpires – HP: David Brewer 1B: David Pace 3B: Alex Leap
Start: 5 p.m. Time: 2:15 Attendance: 212
Weather: 46 degrees, partly cloudy