JMU baseball suffered its first CAA loss of the season to Elon on Saturday by a score of 8-2. The Dukes look to get back on track Sunday in the third game of the season’s first CAA series.
Elon had sophomore ace George Kirby on the mound for 7 2/3 innings. Entering the game with a 3-1 record and a 1.50 ERA, the major league prospect had a strong outing despite surrendering nine hits, tying his career high. Drafted by the New York Mets out of high school, Kirby opted to play for Elon and is eligible to play professionally after his junior season.
"We knew coming in he was a power-righty with some good stuff,” freshman shortstop Josh Jones, who went 3 for 3 on the day, said. “We went in dialed in and hunting fastball … and put bat on ball.”
For a split second, the Dukes had the bases loaded in the bottom of the second with one out. A single by freshman first baseman Michael Morgan advanced sophomore outfielder Harry Brown and Jones to second and third, and an errant throw by Elon first baseman James Venuto enticed Jones to try and take home.
Elon catcher Matt Oldham made the recovery with ease and nailed Jones at home for the second out of the inning. A flyout by sophomore second baseman Matt Dipasupil ended the inning, stranding two runners and keeping the Dukes scoreless early on.
"We put up 12 hits and only scored two runs,” Morgan said. “Getting hits when it matters is really what it comes down to and they did a better job of that today.”
Sophomore pitcher Kevin Kelly had a rough outing, giving up four runs on eight hits, although only one of the runs was earned. A throwing error by sophomore third baseman Fox Semones in the top of the third inning led to the first Elon run of the game. The Phoenix added two more in the inning and take a 3-0 lead.
“We didn’t pitch and play defense when we needed to,” head coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “They got a big inning there in the third and I felt like we were playing catch-up after that.”
Jones put the Dukes on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning on a single with the bases loaded. There were no outs, yet Elon head coach Mike Kennedy elected to keep Kirby on the mound, and for good reason. Elon’s ace hadn’t allowed a run in 17 consecutive innings, and escaped the inning after giving up two runs.
The Dukes were shutout for the remainder of the game and fell 8-2 while stranding 11 runners.
When asked on the biggest difference between Friday’s 4-3 win and this game’s outcome, Ikenberry’s response was simple.
“Their pitcher was better than our pitcher.”
The Dukes will hope to get more run support and a solid outing from the pitching staff Sunday as they try to end the first CAA series on the right note.