ELON, N.C. – A RBI single to through the right side by Elon University’s Harry Austin scored Eric Serra from third with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as the Phoenix dealt the College of Charleston a heart-breaking 5-4 loss in Southern Conference action Saturday evening at Latham Park. The Cougars took a 4-0 lead into the eighth inning, but saw Elon score four times in the eighth to tie the game and push across the winning run in the ninth to drop Charleston to 22-14 overall, 7-7 in the league.
Charleston got the bats going early against Elon starter Dylan Clark, scoring two runs in the top of the first for the early lead. Redshirt-junior C Rob Kral (Randolph, N.J.) reached on a fielding error by 1B Grant McCoury and moved to second on a single by redshirt-junior 3B Matt Leeds (Boca Raton, Fla.). A wild pitch by Clark moved the runners to second and third and redshirt-junior LF Jose Rodriguez (Hialeah, Fla.) lined a two-run double into right center gap for a 2-0 CofC lead.
The Cougars extended their lead to 3-0 in the third on a RBI single to center by senior DH Kolby Epley (Yadkinville, N.C.) that plated Leeds from third. Leeds led off the frame with a single to center, reached second on a fielder’s choice and moved to third during a 4-6-3 double play.
Leeds continued his assault on Elon’s pitching staff in the fifth, leading off with a double down the left-field line. A ground out to second by Rodriguez moved Leeds to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly to deep center by redshirt-freshman RF Daniel Aldrich (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) for a 4-0 Charleston lead.
Elon came alive in the bottom of the eighth, plating four runs off Charleston starter Josh Renfro (Bradenton, Fla.), all with two outs. Garrett Koster led off the frame with a double to left and advanced to third on a groundout to second by Austin. After a strikeout by Renfro, Niko Fraser walked and Neal Prichard hit a RBI single to right center to make the score 4-1. Alex Swim drove home another run with a double to left, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 4-2. Elon knotted the game at four runs apiece, when Gomez singled to third, scoring Prichard and Swim came around to score on a fielding error by junior 1B Marty Gantt (N. Augusta, S.C.) on the throw at first.
Serra led off the ninth with a single to left center off Charleston reliever Kyle Owings (Gilbert, S.C.) and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Serra then stole third to set up the winning run.
Leeds continued to hit the ball well for the Cougars this weekend, collecting three hits and scoring three times. Renfro struck out seven batters in 7-2/3 innings, scattering eight hits and walking two. Owings was tagged with the loss to fall to 0-3, allowing two hits and one run in two-thirds of an inning.
Jared Kernodle picked up the win for Elon in relief of Clark. Kernodle tossed five shutout innings, giving up two hits and one walk with four strikeouts. Swim and Koster had two hits apiece for Elon.
The two teams will meet in final contest of the three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m.