ELON, N.C. – After playing in a pair of early-season tournaments on the road, the Elon University softball team returns to the home confines of Hunt Softball Park to host its first home tournament of the season, the Elon Phoenix Classic, this weekend, Feb. 27-28. The Phoenix welcomes North Carolina A&T and Fairleigh Dickinson to Elon with the maroon and gold facing the Aggies in its first game of the tournament on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 12:45 p.m.
Elon Phoenix Classic Schedule
Saturday, Feb. 27
vs. North Carolina A&T: 12:45 p.m.
vs. Fairleigh Dickinson: 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 28
vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (DH): 12:15 p.m.
Fans can follow the Phoenix via live stats over the weekend at the tournament. Updates will also be provided on Twitter at @elonscores and at the program’s handle @ElonUSoftball.
Heading into the weekend, Elon will meet the Aggies for already the second time this season and the 47th overall between the two longtime Triad rivals. The Phoenix earned a 14-4 victory over the Aggies in its home opener on Feb. 17, with newcomer Kristin Hoover driving in five runs in that contest. Elon and Fairleigh Dickinson will face each other on the softball diamond for the first time.
Leading Off For Elon
• Elon has seven players hitting above .300 in 2016 and contributing to the Phoenix’s .328 average, which is just shy of the lead in the Colonial Athletic Association. Junior Emily Roper has a team-best average at .423.
• The Phoenix is outscoring its opponents, 61-50, on the season and is first in the CAA in runs scored, total hits, doubles, triples and RBI.
• Despite a current four-game losing streak, the Phoenix is staying competitive as each of its last three losses have come by two runs or fewer.
• The maroon and gold gave No. 1 Florida arguably its toughest contest of the season as Elon fell to the two-time defending NCAA champions, 3-1, at the Citrus Classic, in Orlando, Florida. The three runs were the fewest that the Gators have scored so far this season while Elon piled the most hits against Florida this season with seven.
• Since taking over as the Phoenix’s head coach in 2012, Kathy Bocock has posted a record of 19-4 in home tournament games.
Scouting the Phoenix (4-6)
Team BA: .328 | Team ERA: 4.79 |Runs Scored: 61 | Runs Allowed: 50
The Phoenix is looking to snap a current four-game losing streak after dropping its final four games at the Citrus Classic last weekend, Feb. 19-21. Of its six losses on the season, four have come against ranked opponents while each of the Phoenix’s last three defeats have come by two runs or less.
Seven players are hitting over .300 in the Phoenix’s lineup with junior Emily Roper leading the way with her .423 average. Three other players are hitting better .375 and six total are batting north of .360. Kara Shutt paces the squad with her 12 hits and four doubles and has nine RBI. Alaina Hall leads the team with 10 RBI on the season and is fourth in the nation in total triples with two.
Collectively, the Phoenix pitching staff has posted a team cumulative ERA of 4.79 in 57.0 innings of work while striking out 46 and walking 32. In the past three games, Elon’s ERA is 3.15 with the Phoenix getting back-to-back complete game performances from senior Kayla Caruso and sophomore Kiandra Mitchum on Feb. 20. It is the first time that Elon has had complete game performances in a doubleheader since 2014.
Scouting the field
North Carolina A&T: After opening the season with a 4-0 start, the Aggies have dropped its past five contests to sit at 4-5 on the season. N.C. A&T last played on Feb. 21, at the Charleston Southern Tournament and suffered a 10-2 defeat at the hands of the host Buccaneers. The Aggies are hitting .280 total on the season with 33 runs, 13 doubles and 30 RBI. Janika May paces the squad with her .417 average and also leads the team in slugging percentage (.542) and on-base percentage (.462). She also is the Aggies’ win leader in the circle with two wins and has a 4.58 ERA in her 18.1 innings of work.
Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights are making their season debut on Saturday at the tournament. Coming off a 16-20 ledger in 2015 and back-to-back appearances in the Northeast Conference Championship Tournament, first-year head coach KJ Kelley’s squad was tabbed to finish sixth in the league’s preseason standings. Among the top returners for FDU is senior Madelaine Wilen, who was a First Team All-NEC selection last season and led the league in slugging percentage at .690. Overall, the Knights return seven players from last year’s team including five starters.
Elon is back on the road for its fourth tournament of the season next weekend, March 5-6, at the Buffalo Wild Wings Spartan Invitational hosted by USC Upstate. The Phoenix opens the tournament on Friday, March 5, versus Valparaiso at 3 p.m. in Spartanburg, S.C.