ORLANDO, Fla. – A pair of home runs by sophomore Emily Roper helped the Elon University softball team to a couple of victories on Sunday, Feb. 22, on the final day of the Citrus Classic. The Phoenix defeated Morgan State, 5-2, to open the day before pulling out an 8-6 victory over Virginia.
The two wins improved Elon to 7-4 on the year and capped off a 4-0 weekend at the tournament. The Phoenix travels to face another Athletic Coast Conference foe at in-state rival North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 25. The first pitch is scheduled for a 5 p.m. start in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Elon 5, Morgan State 2
The Phoenix jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Roper sent a two-run shot over the right field fence for her first homer of the season. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native drove in Alaina Hall, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice to put Elon up first.
Elon’s Kayla Caruso continued to her great performance from the night before in the circle as the junior allowed no hits and only one base runner through the first three innings. Morgan State finally broke through with back-to-back one-out singles, but Caruso induced the final two outs on a double play turned by Madison Kadlic to end the frame.
A Morgan State error in the fourth helped add another run for the Phoenix. Sarah Little singled to right field and moved to second on a grounder with two outs. The Phoenix would drive its third run of the contest on an error by the shortstop on Kadlic’s at bat, scoring Eve Clausen, who replaced Little on the base paths.
A bases loaded walk drew by sophomore Katie Rufo added another run in the bottom of the fifth, giving the Phoenix a comfortable 4-0 cushion. The Bears would battle back in the top of the sixth with a pair of runs. MSU received a free pass to start the inning followed by a single to left. A double on the next at bat led to Morgan State’s first run of the contest while giving the Bears runners in scoring position.
The Phoenix made a change in the circle as senior Caitlin O’Shea took over toeing the rubber for Alli Burdette, who had relieved Caruso to start the sixth. O’Shea struck out the next batter she faced and induced the next out on a grounder to the shortstop, but Morgan State was able to plate its second run of the contest to pull within two, 4-2, on the play. A grounder to third base ended the threat as the Phoenix moved to the bottom of the inning.
Elon responded in the bottom half thanks to a two-out, RBI triple from Roper. Roper drove in Hannah Olson, who led off the inning with a single to put Elon ahead 5-2.
Morgan State attempted to rally in the seventh as its first two batters reached on base on balls. The pair would be stranded as O’Shea finagled the final three outs to end the game.
Caruso (3-0) earned the win after going 5.0 innings and allowed only two hits with six strikeouts. O’Shea picked up the save after she went 2.0 scoreless innings in relief. The save was also the fourth of her career, moving her into a tie for third all-time in school history. Roper went 2-for-3 with three RBI and one run scored.
Elon 8, Virginia 6
The Phoenix faced an early deficit after the top of the first in its game against the Cavaliers. A Phoenix error with two outs in centerfield led to Virginia advancing a runner to third before a single drove her in to put the Cavaliers up 1-0.
Elon responded quickly in the bottom of the frame. Hall reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second after a single by Kara Shutt. Roper then drove a ball over the right field fence again for her second homer of the day and put the Phoenix up 3-1.
Another run would cross the plate for the maroon and gold in the bottom of the second. Olson hit a two-out single to center field and was brought home by Hall, who followed with a double to center field putting the Phoenix up 4-1.
Virginia trimmed the lead to two in the top of the third with a one-out solo home run to bring the score to 4-2. After the next batter was hit-by-pitch, Elon starter Kiandra Mitchum settled down and retired the next two batters to end the frame.
The Cavaliers were not done as another run was added to the scoreboard in the top of the fourth pulling Virginia even closer at 4-3. The game was eventually tied in the top of the fifth on a solo homer, knotting the game at 4-4.
The momentum quickly swung back in favor of the Phoenix in the bottom half of the frame. Roper drew a walk to begin the inning and was moved to second on a sacrifice by Emily Cameron. A single by Carey Million advanced her to third while Million was able to move to second on the throw. After an intentional walk on Little, Roper broke the tie after scoring on a wild pitch.
Elon was not done as back-to-back singles by Kadlic and Olson plated two more runs. A sacrifice fly by Hall to left gave the Phoenix its fourth run of the inning and an 8-4 advantage.
UVA connected on a two-run homer to in the top of the sixth, but that would set the final score as Elon held on for its second-ever victory over Virginia, 8-6.
The win was given to Mitchum (4-2) after the freshman went 4.0 innings and gave up three runs, one earned, off six hits. Olson was 3-for-3 at the plate while Kadlic and Shutt each had two hits. Roper had three RBI in the contest and six overall in the two games.