ELON, N.C. – The Elon University softball team opens its 10th and final appearance at the Southern Conference Softball Championships on Wednesday, May 7, with a contest against No. 1 seed Georgia Southern beginning at 3 p.m. at the UNCG Softball Stadium in Greensboro.
Fans can follow the Phoenix throughout the 2014 SoCon Championships via live stats by going to the Elon softball schedule page at elonphoenix.com. Twitter updates will also be provided the handle @ElonScores or @ElonUSoftball. Live streaming of the series will be available on SoConTV through the soconsports.com website.
The Phoenix is making its 10th and final appearance in the SoCon Championships before leaving for the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) next season. Elon has an overall record of 13-15 in the league championships all-time, but captured the 2010 title with a 6-3 win over UNCG. Last season, Elon lost in the play-in game to Samford, 8-0, but this year all eight teams open the tournament in double-elimination play.
Wednesday’s contest will be the 37th meeting all-time between Elon and Georgia Southern as the Eagles hold a 26-10 advantage in a series dating back to 1999. The two programs met on March 22-23 in Statesboro, Georgia, earlier this season with the Eagles winning all three games in the series. Elon’s Carleigh Nester became the program’s all-time RBI leader in the finale on March 23, with a solo home run in the top of the first, but the Phoenix would fall 9-1 to the Eagles.
Scouting the Phoenix (24-27-1, 6-15 SoCon)
The Phoenix is coming into the tournament as the eighth seed after being swept by UNCG this past weekend in Greensboro. The maroon and gold is still one of the top power hitting team’s in the conference with a league-high 53 home runs and a slugging percentage of .414. The Phoenix has also shown its speed on the base paths with 50 stolen bases, third in the SoCon.
Nester set a new personal and single-season program record with her 15th home run of the season on Saturday against the Spartans. Nester’s 42 RBI is also the most for a player in a single year since Emerald Graham’s 47 in 2011.
Both Nester and freshman Alaina Hall were selected to the 2014 Southern Conference Softball All-Conference teams on Tuesday, May 6. Nester received her third overall selection to the teams and second straight first team honor.
Hall received a spot on the second and the All-Freshman teams after a fantastic rookie campaign. The Suwanee, Georgia, native leads the team in average (.344), hits (54), stolen bases (17) and triples (three). She also paces the squad with 13 multi-hit games, had an 11-game hit streak and also reached base safely in 13 consecutive games.
The Phoenix has relied mostly on the three-person staff of Caitlin O’Shea, Alli Burdette and Chelsea White in the circle for the latter half of the season. O’Shea, who was named the SoCon Pitcher of the Week on April 28, leads the team in innings pitched (137.2) with a 2.85 ERA and has two saves on the year.
Scouting Georgia Southern (33-19, 15-6 SoCon)
The defending SoCon tournament champion, Georgia Southern captured the league’s regular-season title this past weekend after being selected as the preseason favorite by the league coaches in the 2014 SoCon Preseason poll.
Going into the tournament, GSU is among the top teams in the conference with a 2.01 ERA as a staff with opponents batting only .198 against the Eagles. Georgia Southern has also struck out 399 batters, 76 more than the second team in the conference.
GSU’s Sarah Purvis was selected as the SoCon Pitcher of the Year for the third straight season after leading the conference in strikeouts and held batters to a league-low .180 average. Teammate Brooke Red is also having an impressive season with a 2.20 ERA while only allowing a .204 average to opposing hitters.
Offensively, the Eagles are hitting .256 as a team, but have two players batting over .300 in their regular lineup. Taylor Rodgers leads the team with a .387 average and was named the SoCon Freshman of the Year on Tuesday, May 6. Senior Kourtny Thomas is batting .340 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI on the year.
With a win, Elon will then face the winner between fourth-seeded Samford and fifth-seeded and host UNCG at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 8. A loss on Wednesday would move the Phoenix to an 11:30 a.m. slot on Thursday versus the loser between the Bulldogs and Spartans.