COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Elon University softball team had a couple of setbacks on the final day at the Gamecock Invitational on Sunday, Feb. 23. The Phoenix dropped a 12-3 contest to Liberty to begin the day before falling to host and No. 22 South Carolina, 4-0, in its nightcap at Carolina Softball Stadium.
The losses dropped the Phoenix to 7-6 on the year. Liberty improved to 3-11 with its win while the Gamecocks moved to 10-3.
“This weekend, we came to this tournament knowing that we were going to learn a lot about ourselves,” said Elon head coach Kathy Bocock. “Today, we came out against Liberty and had a few struggles, making some errors that we just have to clean up. The girls later came out and showed some fight against South Carolina and we stayed in that game. Like I said, we just got to keep cleaning things up to be successful.”
Game One: Liberty 12, Elon 3 (6)
After a scoreless opening frame between both teams, Liberty came out the gates with a seven-run second inning. The Flames’ Amber Bishop led off with a solo home run down the left field line to break open the scoring. Liberty continued the scoring with a pair of one-out RBI singles to push its lead to 3-0. The Phoenix made a switch in the circle with Alexa Nemeth taking over for Katie Hoover, but Liberty drove in a couple on a double to right center to expand its lead to 5-0. Two more RBI singles made the score 7-0 before the turn of the inning.
Elon answered with a three-spot in the home half of the second. Megan White drew a walk to open the inning while Lauryn Clarke and Carley Davis reached with singles to load the bases. Keagan Goldwait cleared them with a three-RBI double to center, closing the Phoenix’s gap to 7-3 after two complete.
Liberty responded to add to its lead with runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Caroline Hudson drove a RBI double to left field in the fourth to move the Flames ahead 8-3. Another RBI off the bat of Savannah Channell on a single in the fifth pushed the Phoenix’s deficit to six, 9-3, before the turn of the inning.
Three more runs came across the dish for Liberty in its half of the sixth, putting the Flames ahead by nine, 12-3. Elon was able to get a base runner on in the bottom of the frame, but she would be stranded as three straight putouts ended the game.
At the Plate
Elon ended the contest with five hits by five different players. Goldwait had three RBI and double to standout for the maroon and gold, who left three runners on base.
In the Circle
Hoover (0-1) was handed the loss in the circle for the Phoenix. The sophomore threw 1.1 innings and surrendered three hits, five runs, four earned and walked two. Nemeth threw the remaining 4.2 frames and gave up eight hits and seven runs, with four being earned. She also had a pair of strikeouts.
Game Two: No. 22 South Carolina 4, Elon 0
Elon put itself in great position to strike first against the 22nd-ranked Gamecocks in the opening inning. Megan Grant drew a walk and was joined in the bases by Ally Repko and White on one-out free passes to load the bases. On the next at bat, Clarke put down a bunt in an attempt to score Grant from third, but Grant was called out on a close play at home on the forceout.
South Carolina scored the first run of the contest off a Phoenix miscue in its home half of the first. The Gamecocks’ Lauren Stewart reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on a hit-by-pitch and a fly out. With runners at the corners, Elon attempted to catch a runner stealing second, but the errant throw led to Stewart scoring from third to put the Gamecocks ahead 1-0.
The Gamecocks doubled their lead in the third inning. Stewart led off with a double to center field and reached third on a one-out fielder’s choice. Elon looked to escape the inning after a runner was called out at first for leaving early, but a RBI single from Katie Prebbie scored Stewart to put South Carolina ahead 2-0.
South Carolina once again doubled its lead in the bottom of the sixth to put the game out of reach. RBIs from Hannah Kumiyama and Haley Simpson put the Gamecocks up 4-0 going to the finale frame.
The Phoenix managed its first base hit of the night on a Bella Devesa one-out double to right field. Elon could not build off that as the Gamecocks retired the next two batters to close out the contest with a 4-0 win.
At the Plate
Devesa’s double was her first career hit for the rookie in her only at bat of the contest. The Phoenix left four base runners on base and struck out nine times.
In the Circle
Kaitlin King (3-4) pitched a complete game for the Phoenix for the second straight game. She gave up six hits and four runs with three of those being earned. Her counterpart for the Gamecocks, Bailey Betenbaugh, allowed one hit with nine strikeouts and three walks for her first win of the year to go to 1-0.
The Phoenix continues on the road with a midweek contest at North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 26. That game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. opening pitch.