ELON, N.C. – The Elon University softball team split its doubleheader versus Triad rival UNCG on Saturday, March 10. The Phoenix fell in the opening game, 4-1, in eight innings before rebounding in the nightcap with a 6-4 victory at Hunt Softball Park.
The Phoenix (13-8) lost the the series against the Spartans (15-7) after falling in the opener of the three-game set on Friday, March 9, in Greensboro, N.C. Both teams were originally scheduled to play its final game of the series on Sunday, March 11, but inclement weather forced the contest to be moved to Friday.
Game One: UNCG 4, Elon 1 (8)
Both the Phoenix and the Spartans battled through a pitchers’ duel in the opening game with Elon’s Kiandra Mitchum and UNCG’s Stephanie Bryden showcasing their talents in the circle. Both hurlers combined to allow only one hit through the first six innings with Bryden working on a perfect game after the close of the sixth.
The Spartans struck first in the top of the seventh. A one-out double down the left field line gave UNCG a runner on base and broke Mitchum’s streak of nine straight batters retired. The Spartans’ Jasmine Palmer drove a single to right field to score a run and give UNCG the 1-0 advantage.
Elon responded in the bottom half of the frame thanks to some clutch plays from the top of its lineup. Leadoff hitter Kara Shutt broke Bryden’s perfect game with bunt single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Hannah Olson. The Phoenix knotted the game at one-all as Erica Serafini sent a 1-0 pitch over the left fielder’s head to easily score Shutt while putting herself into immediate scoring position with just one out. Serafini eventually moved to third in the inning with two outs and was 60 feet away from plating the walkoff run, but Bryden was able to recover with a strikeout to send the game into extras.
A three-run top of the eighth by the Spartans aided Bryden as UNCG scored on a Phoenix error, a RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
Bryden ended up setting down the Phoenix bats in order in the bottom half of the eighth to secure the series victory in the 4-1 contest for the Spartans.
Elon recorded two hits in the contest, both in the seventh inning, while also contributing one error. Shutt and Serafini both went 1-for-3 for the Phoenix with Serafini adding a RBI and a double.
Mitchum (4-3) took the loss for the Phoenix despite allowing only two earned runs in 7.1 innings. The Mechanicsville, Va., native also struck out six and walked one. Mitchum’s counterpart Bryden improved to 6-1 with a complete game in which she allowed two hits, one run and struck out 12 batters.
Game Two: Elon 6, UNCG 4
The second game had a different feel as both teams came out plating runs in the first inning. UNCG scored its run in the opening frame on a sacrifice fly to center field to take the early 1-0 advantage.
That lead would not last as Elon answered back in its home half. Shutt led off with a walk and moved to third on a bunt single from Olson. A single through the right side from Serafini tied the game at one-all while both her and Olson advanced into scoring position on the throw to home. A bases clearing double to right field by Ashtyn Foddrell put the Phoenix ahead 3-1 with Elon looking to continue the momentum with no outs. The next three bats would go down in order however as the first inning came to a close.
UNCG trimmed into the Phoenix’s lead in the top of the fourth. Gabi Cubbage led off the inning with a solo homerun to left field to cut the Spartans’ deficit to one, 3-2. UNCG would get the tying run to third with two outs in the frame, but a fly out to center would leave her stranded as Elon held on to its one-score advantage.
A two-run bottom of the fifth gave the Phoenix some breathing room on the scoreboard. Olson reached on a fielder’s choice and scored Tia Mitchell, who led off the inning with a single through the right side. Olson moved to second on the play and was driven in on Foddrell’s third RBI of the game on a two-out single up the middle. A ground out on the next at bat closed out the inning with Elon taking a 5-2 lead to the sixth.
UNCG answered to bring itself back within one in the top of the sixth. The Spartans added a two-spot with a two-out, two-run homer by pinch hitter Kayleigh Willis, scoring herself and Palmer, who reached earlier on a walk. Elon held off the Spartans by forcing the next out on a fly out to center, but clung to a 5-4 advantage heading into its side of the sixth.
The Phoenix responded to get a run back in the bottom of the sixth. After the Phoenix was retired quickly for its first two outs on strikeouts, Morgan Reich and Mitchell recorded back-to-back singles to reach for the maroon and gold. Elon loaded the bags after Shutt drew a free pass with Olson coming to the plate. UNCG went with a pitching change as Bryden relieved starter Kylie Bouplon with Olson coming to the plate. Despite the change, Olson gave the Phoenix the valuable insurance run on a RBI single to left field and put the Phoenix back in front by two, 6-4.
A three up, three down inning tossed by Abby Barker in the top of the seventh gave the Phoenix the 6-4 victory and salvage the day with win in the series finale over the Spartans.
The Phoenix belted 11 hits in the contest, a new single-game high this season. Six different players had multi-hit performances with Shutt (2-for-2), Olson (2-for-4), Foddrell (2-for-3), Reich (2-for-3) and Mitchell (2-for-3) leading the charge. Foddrell also had three RBI while Olson added two.
Phoenix starter Kenna Quinn evened her record to 2-2 on the season with the victory. The Boiling Springs, N.C., native threw 4.2 innings with three hits and two runs allowed. Barker pitched 2.1 innings in relief and gave up one hit, two runs while earning her second save of the season.
Notes: Shutt extended her hit and reached base streak to 19 games after having a hit in both contests…Olson saw her reached base streak end at 15 games in the opening game…Mitchum reach 330 career strikeouts after her sixth strikeout performance in the opening game.
Elon is set to face Syracuse in a midweek home tilt on Wednesday, March 14. The opening pitch of that game is slated for 6 p.m. at Hunt Softball Park.