Elon Phoenix Heads to Georgia for Season Opener

ELON, N.C. – The Elon University softball team begins its 40th season this weekend as the Phoenix opens the 2016 campaign at the University of Georgia Red and Black Showcase beginning on Friday, Feb. 12, at Jack Turner Stadium.

Elon opens the tournament against Winthrop on Friday at 3 p.m. before facing host No. 12 Georgia later that afternoon. The maroon and gold concludes the tournament on Saturday, Feb. 13, with a rematch against the Eagles and Bulldogs.


Friday, Feb. 12

vs. Winthrop: 3 p.m.

at No. 12 Georgia: 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 13

vs. Winthrop: 10 p.m.

at No. 12 Georgia: 3 p.m.

Live Coverage

Fans can follow the Phoenix via GameTracker by going to the Elon softball schedule page at elonphoenix.com. Twitter updates will also be provided the handle @elonscores or @ElonUSoftball. Both the Phoenix’s games against Georgia will air on the SEC Network+.

Series Histories

Elon will face Winthrop for the 22nd time on the softball field and the first time since 2013 when the two teams met at the Red and Black Showcase. The Eagles hold a 14-7 advantage over the maroon and gold all-time in a series that dates to 1998 and won the previous contest, 4-1, the last time the programs met in Athens, Ga. The Phoenix however has won two of the past three games over the Eagles.

The Phoenix and the Bulldogs have squared off 11 times in its series history going back to 2001. Georgia has a commanding 10-1 advantage over Elon including a current three-game win streak. Elon however upset the Bulldogs in 2013 in Athens, 5-2, handing sixth-ranked Georgia its first home opening-day loss since 2006. The Phoenix also earned its first-ever victory over a top-10 opponent.

Leading Off For Elon

• This is the third time in the previous four seasons that the Phoenix has competed at a tournament in Georgia. Elon upset the then sixth-ranked Bulldogs in 2013, 5-2, earning the program first-ever win versus a ranked opponent and handing Georgia its first home season-opening lost since 2006.

• Elon has an overall mark of 16-10 in season openers in the fast pitch era and is 3-1 in the first game of the season under head coach Kathy Bocock. Elon however has a mark of 1-7 the previous two times its has played in a tournament at Georgia.

• The maroon and gold finished the 2015 campaign with 31 wins and its first winning season since 2011. The Phoenix also had its highest winning percentage (.584) since 2010.

• Offensively, the Phoenix returns three players that hit .300 or better last season and helped lead Elon to a third-place standing in its first year in the CAA. Elon ended its first foray in its new league with an 11-10 mark and finished behind NCAA Tournament teams James Madison and Hofstra.

Scouting the Phoenix

Elon’s strength remains its outfield with returners Alaina Hall and Kara Shutt. Hall has consistently been one of the best hitters on the team with her .350 career average including a team-best .358 mark last season. Shutt was equally impressive as the Greensboro, N.C., native made an immediate impact as a rookie. Shutt led the team with 44 RBI – an Elon rookie record and the second-best single-season mark in school history – and also was the team leader in slugging percentage (.521), runs scored (35), doubles (14) and total bases (88).

The Phoenix returns both players who spent time behind the backstop last season in juniors Emily Roper and Carey Million. Roper batted .272, led the Phoenix with eight home runs and was second on the squad with 32 RBI – all single-season personal bests. Million also had a breakthrough sophomore season as the Roebling, N.J., improved her average to .288 and had five homers with 22 RBI. Million became a key clutch performer for the maroon and gold as each of her home runs either won or tied a game in the sixth or later innings.

For the first time in her coaching tenure at Elon, Bocock will have the same Opening Day shortstop for two consecutive seasons in sophomore Hannah Olson. Olson, who received CAA All-Rookie honors and was named to College Sports Madness 2016 Preseason All-CAA second team, returns after batting .331 with three home runs, 18 RBI while hustling for 12 doubles.

Phoenix returns its top two hurlers from last season in terms of innings pitched in sophomore Kiandra Mitchum and senior Kayla Caruso. Caruso led the Phoenix with 12 wins – its highest total from a pitcher since 2012. She also had a 3.62 ERA while throwing 100.2 innings and paced the team with 57 strikeouts. The lefty Mitchum led Elon in innings pitched at 107.1 and ended the year with a 9-9 record and an ERA of 4.04 to go with a pair of saves.

Scouting the field

Winthrop: The Eagles finished last season with a record of 26-25 and was third overall in the Big South Conference with its 14-9 ledger. Picked to finish fifth in the 2016 Big South Preseason poll, the Eagles return 15 letterwinners and seven starters from its squad from a season ago. Among the top offensive returners for Winthrop includes junior Maddie Antone, who batted .354 with six homers and 36 RBI. Other top returners include Paige Haley (.286, 22 R, .971 Fld%), Leah Young (.265, five 3B, 26 RB, 18 SB) and Megan Winningham, who redshirted last season. Co-head coach Mark Cooke is in his 26th year at the helm of the program while fellow co-head coach Kendal Fuller begins her first season with the Eagles. During his tenure with the Eagles, Cooke has posted a 706-717-3 record.

Georgia: Coming off a season with 44 wins and its 14th-straight NCAA Regional appearance, 12th-ranked Georgia brings back 13 veterans from its 2015 team. Among the returners include senior Alex Hugo, a two-time NFCA All-American. Hugo led the SEC with 22 home runs while also batting .389 with 65 hits and 73 RBI. She is one of four players returning the to Bulldogs’ lineup that hit .350 or better a season ago. In the circle, another NFCA All-American, senior Chelsea Wilkinson, is coming off a campaign where she posted a 28-11 record with a 2.19 ERA. She also collected 266 strikeouts and held opponents to only a .190 average. Lu Harris-Champer is in her 19th year with the Bulldogs with a 731-265 record.

On Deck

Elon hosts its home opener on Feb. 16, against local longtime Triad rival North Carolina A&T. That game is scheduled to begin at 4:30 at Hunt Softball Park.