As Fred Jordan watched Elon celebrate its SoCon title Sunday afternoon, I asked him a question.
“Don’t you want to play another one?”
“You bet,” Jordan said.
Alas, SoCon rules don’t allow for that second game, and Elon’s 6-5 win over the Bulldogs is good for the SoCon title and a berth in the NCAA regionals. Both teams finished the tourney with one loss — The Citadel at 3-1 and Elon at 5-1 — but the two-bracket, double-elimination format calls for a single championship game between the bracket winners.
It was a stunning end to a spectacular week for the Bulldogs, full of clutch hits and highlight reel defensive plays. That defense faltered Sunday, as the Bulldogs failed to make a couple of plays that could have helped out ace pitcher Austin Pritcher. He only made it through 2.2 innings on three days’ rest, giving up six runs (five earned).
“I felt his numbers were good as far as the pitches he had thrown,” Jordan said of Pritcher, who threw 117 pitches on Wednesday. “He just fell behind in the count, and the balls they hit didn’t go to us. They went to the grass.”
Pritcher is the only senior loss among key contributors, though junior catcher Joe Jackson surely helped his draft status with an amazing week in his hometown. Jackson hit .769 (10 of 13) with eight runs, 5 RBI, three doubles, one triple, a game-winning homer, reaching base safely 18 of 20 times. His only disappointment — not getting the bat off his shoulder in an eighth inning at-bat with 2 on and 2 out and the Dogs down by 6-5.
“I’m a little mad at myself for that,” he said. But you can’t be too mad at a guy who hit .386 with 19 doubles, 3 triples, 13 homers and 67 RBI this season.
The Bulldogs’ entire lineup — 2B Mason Davis, CF Hughston Armstrong, C Joe Jackson, DH Bo Thompson, RF Tyler Griffin, LF Drew DeKerlegand, 1B Calvin Orth, 3B Bailey Rush, SS Johnathan Stokes — could return next year, if Jackson doesn’t like his draft slot. Even with him gone, that’s a potent returning lineup.
The rotation is more of a question mark, though Logan Cribb could be ready for the Friday night role after what he showed in the tournament.
The way it ended will be tough for Jordan and the Bulldogs — who were picked to finish eighth in the SoCon, and nearly won it all, to get over.
“It’s a sad, sad day,” Jordan said. “But they will revitalize on the way back to Charleston, and think about all the good things they did.”
And all the good things,perhaps, to come.