ELON, N.C. – Continuing its 10-game homestand to start the season, the Elon University softball team plays host to intrastate and Atlantic Coast Conference foe North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 14, in a midweek contest. The Phoenix and the Tar Heels are slated for a 4:30 p.m. opening pitch at Hunt Softball Park.
Follow the Phoenix
Fans can keep up with the action of the Phoenix all season via live stats from the program’s schedule page at elonphoenix.com. Updates will also be provided on Twitter on @elonscores or the program’s handle, @ElonUSoftball. The game will also be streamed online on Elon’s Phoenix All-Access channel.
Inside the Series: North Carolina
The Tar Heels have dominated the series on the softball diamond against the maroon and gold during Elon’s fastpitch era (since 1990). UNC holds a 28-2-1 all-time advantage since the two programs have begun playing on a yearly basis since 1998. North Carolina has won the past seven meetings with the Phoenix’s last victory coming in 2010. Last season, the Tar Heels earned a 6-2 in Chapel Hill, its lowest margin of victory during its current win streak versus the Phoenix.
Versus the ACC
North Carolina will be the first opponent that the Phoenix will face on its schedule from the ACC this season. Along with the Tar Heels, Elon is also slated to face ACC members NC State (Feb. 21), Syracuse (March 14) and Duke (April 11) in 2018 with the Orange coming to Hunt Softball Park. The Phoenix will face the Tar Heels in a rematch later this season at the Carolina Classic on March 3.
Last Time Out
A Kristin Hoover walk-off RBI double in game one and a converted double play at the end of game two helped Elon to earn a doubleheader sweep versus North Carolina Central on Saturday, Feb. 10, to conclude its opening weekend. The Phoenix won both contests by a score of 5-4 versus the Eagles with both contests being nail-biters until the end.
In game one, the Phoenix trailed NCCU 4-0 going to the sixth inning and was in danger of falling to the Eagles for the first time in series history. Elon rallied to plate three runs in the home half of the sixth, but still trailed by one in the bottom of the seventh and was down to its final out before Erica Serafini tied the game on a RBI triple. The maroon and gold prevailed with a 5-4 win in the 10th inning thanks to Hoover’s walk-off hit.
Elon had the early advantage in the second game and led 5-0 going into the seventh inning. N.C. Central answered with four runs in the inning mostly behind a one-out, three-run home run. As the Eagles added a couple of runners on still with two outs, Elon converted a double play to escape the threat and improve to 12-0 all-time versus NCCU.
Around the Horn
• As a team, the Phoenix is batting .239 through its four games with 28 hits, 15 runs scored and 12 RBI. Elon also leads the Colonial Athletic Association in doubles with seven.
• Hoover leads the team with her .429 (6-for-14) average and is tied for the squad lead with her three RBI and two doubles. Serafini is second on the team with her .400 average (4-for-10) and is tied with Hoover with three RBI and also has a triple to her stat line.
• Kara Shutt is third on the team with her .375 average (6-for-16) and has a team-best five runs scored. She also added a pair of doubles over the weekend and moved into sole possession of fourth all-time in school history with 44 in her career. The Greensboro, N.C., native is also just four RBI shy from 100 in her career.
• Pitchers Abby Barker and Elise Walton earned the wins versus N.C. Central on Saturday. It was the first wins for the redshirt sophomores in a regular season game after both missed last season due to injury.
• The Phoenix pitching staff is posting a 3.28 ERA in 32.0 innings through the first four contests. Elon has also struck out 16 batters and walked 12. Barker leads the Phoenix in innings pitched with 10.1 and in strikeouts with seven while posting a 1-1 record and a 2.03 ERA. Walton had a team-low 1.91 ERA in her 7.1 innings of action.
• Elon head coach Kathy Bocock now has 397 career victories and 160 at Elon after the Phoenix’s two wins on Saturday versus N.C. Central.
Scouting the Tar Heels
North Carolina is 3-1 on the young season after opening 2018 at the “Friends of Jaclyn” Invitational hosted by the University of Central Florida this past weekend. UNC earned victories versus Butler, Louisville and host UCF with its only blemish coming against Providence. The Tar Heels, coming off a 40-21 record in 2017, was chosen to finish second in the 2018 ACC Preseason Poll as head coach Donna J. Papa enters her 33rd season at UNC.
Through four games this season, North Carolina is batting .295 on the year with 31 hits, 12 runs scored and 10 RBI. Four players among the team regulars are hitting north of .300 with Leah Murray pacing the squad with her .571 average. Brittany Pickett is the main run producer so far on the year for the Tar Heels with a team-high six RBI and the lone home run for UNC.
In the circle, Pickett has been lights out on the young season, earning three wins for the Tar Heels with a 0.00 ERA in her 19.0 innings pitched. The sophomore has 16 of the program’s 26 strikeouts on the year and has allowed opponents to bat .115.
Elon hosts its annual softball tournament this weekend, Feb. 16-18, as the Phoenix welcomes the field of Bowling Green, Mount St. Mary’s, North Texas and Rhode Island to Hunt Softball Park. The Phoenix’s first game of the tournament versus Bowling Green is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 16, at 2:30 p.m.