ELON, N.C. – Outstanding pitching performances were the story of the game in the 2018 season opener for the Elon University baseball team as the Phoenix dropped a 2-1 decision to the Penn State Nittany Lions on Friday, Feb. 16.
The two pitching staffs combined to strike out 31 hitters and there were only two extra-base hits.
Phoenix starter George Kirby’s 11 strikeouts were a career high and the most by an Elon starting pitcher on opening day since the program moved to NCAA Division I play for the 2000 season. His 11 strikeouts surpassed the seven posted four times – by Brad Pinkerton in 2001, Jimmy Reyes in 2009, Lucas Bakker in 2014 and Ryan Conroy in 2017. Kirby (0-1) was saddled with the loss, however, after allowing one run on two hits in 5.0 innings of work.
At the plate, Elon was led by Joe Satterfield and Shawn Blake who each recorded two hits. Satterfield also drove in the lone Phoenix run of the contest.
Penn State starter Justin Hagenman (1-0) allowed four hits and struck out seven over 5.0 innings. Eric Mock tossed a perfect ninth to earn his first save of the year.
Quotable: “Kirby’s a dude. He’s got good stuff and we’re expecting those kinds of outings out of him. That doesn’t surprise me that he did what he did. He made one mistake, but he was outstanding.” – Head Coach Mike Kennedy
“We had some opportunities. We had bases loaded with nobody out. We had a couple guys up that, more times than not, are going to come through. Our at bats with guys on base weren’t good.” – Head Coach Mike Kennedy
How It Happened: The game was scoreless until the top of the fourth inning when Ryan Sloniger led off the frame with a solo homer to right to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead. In the sixth, Penn State stretched the edge to 2-0 when Shea Sbranti scored on a Connor Klemann single to center on a 3-2 pitch.
Elon had multiple chances to score, but was only able to push across one run in the last of the seventh as Satterfield drove home Blake with a single to right.
The Phoenix stranded nine base runners and left the bags full in both the fifth and seventh innings.
Notes: The win was the first in five tries for Penn State against Elon… The Phoenix is now 13-9 in season openers under head coach Mike Kennedy and 15-7 in home openers under the 22nd-year skipper… Elon fell to 143-120 in one-run games under Kennedy… In his last two outings, Kirby has struck out 14 hitters and allowed one run in 8.1 innings… Shortstop Ryne Ogren started his 90th consecutive game for the maroon and gold.
On Deck: Elon and Penn State will play game two of the three-game series beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. The time was moved up due to the threat of rain.