ELON, N.C. – A grand slam by senior Carleigh Nester fueled a seven-run bottom of the second inning for the Elon University softball team, but a couple of Phoenix miscues in the top of the seventh helped Towson to a 8-7 win over the maroon and gold on Thursday, March 20, at Hunt Softball Park.
The Phoenix (16-9-1) found itself facing a huge deficit after the first two innings of play after spotting the Tigers (13-9) six runs, falling behind 6-0 after the top of the second. In the opening frame, Hailey Balk hit a one out single to the shortstop and moved to second after Maureen Hepner was walked. Missy McCormick then drove a ball to left center, earning a double and scoring Balk for an early 1-0 lead. Courtney Johnson followed with a three-run home run to left field to put the Tigers up 4-0 with one out.
The Phoenix made a pitching change as Chelsea White relieved starter Alli Burdette. White then retired the next two batters to end the frame with Elon down 4-0. Towson plated two more runs to its lead in the top of the second behind a Holiday Cahill solo home run down the left field line and another RBI by McCormick on a single to score Olivia Yarbrough, who reached earlier on a single to left.
The Phoenix answered in the bottom half of the second with a seven-run outburst. Grace Eng led off with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Emily Cameron would later join her on the bases after drawing a free pass. Eng would get thrown out on a fielder’s choice at third, but the Phoenix scored its first run of the game on an Aly Quintana single to left center. Johanna Spencer followed with a single up the middle to drive in Emily Roper from third and moving Quintana to second.
Lauren Oldham then poked a ball through the right side of the infield for a single to load the bases for the Phoenix. Elon added its third run of the inning after Alaina Hall drew another walk, scoring Quintana and trimming the Tigers’ lead to three, 6-3. Nester then hit her 30th career home run on a two-out grand slam to put the Phoenix up 7-6.
The Tigers then made a change in the circle, relieving McCormick with Ambar Hickman. The Phoenix would pop up to end the inning, but had grabbed momentum back from the Tigers.
Both teams were quiet in the third at the plate, but the Phoenix ran into some trouble in the top of the fourth as the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs. After Balk reached on a single to load the bags, Elon made another pitching change with Caitlin O’Shea stepping in for White. O’Shea promptly forced the first batter she faced to a 1-2-3 double play then escaped the inning with a ground out to the shortstop.
O’Shea and the Phoenix defense got into another jam with the bags full for Towson in the top of the sixth. Three consecutive one-out singles for the Tigers again gave them a chance to score the tying and go-ahead runs, but O’Shea was able to record the second out on a force out at home on a fielder’s choice before catching a liner from Johnson to end the inning.
In the top half of the seventh, some Elon miscues led to Towson scoring the tying and eventual winning run. Delanie Dunham hit a one-out bloop single down the right field line and moved to second on a single by Macie McGeehan. Another single advanced her to third before she scored the tying run on an Elon error.
The Phoenix recorded the second putout of the inning after Balk reached on a fielder’s choice, but with the bases still loaded, Hepner was walked, scoring the go-ahead run for the Tigers. Elon attempted to respond in the bottom half with two runners reaching base with two outs, but Hickman retired the final batter on a grounder to third to seal the win.
O’Shea (4-4) took the loss for the Phoenix after pitching 4.0 innings while allowing two runs with a strikeout. The Phoenix had 11 hits as a team with Cameron, Quintana and Oldham leading the way with two each. Nester became the second player in school history with 30 or more career home runs and the third with 120 RBI or more.
Elon returns to Southern Conference play this weekend with a trip to Statesboro, Ga., for a three-game series at Georgia Southern. The Phoenix and the Eagles will square off in a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. before concluding the series on Sunday, March 23, at 1 p.m.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 R H E Towson 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 8 16 0 Elon 0 7 0 0 0 0 0 X 7 11 2
Win – Hickman (6-3)
Loss – O’Shea (4-4)
Save – None.
Umpires – HP: Tin Inman 1B: Donald Pernell 3B: Roberto Capuno
Start: 4:30 pm Time: 2:19 Attendance: 111
Weather: 64 degrees, mostly sunny