Sporting notes compiled while marveling at how far Elon’s come in five short years in the Southern Conference.
- Congrats to the 2008 baseball Eagles for their astronomical numbers at the plate. The group will go down in history for producing school records in home runs (114), runs (595), RBIs (543), hits (751) and total bases (1,269). They also ranked second in GSU history in batting average (.346) and doubles (154).
- Too bad there wasn’t much pitching.
- The lack of pitching depth was somewhat of a conference-wide issue this season. SoCon coaches say it’s hard to lure top-tier pitchers to the mid-major level because the best-of-the-best sign professional contracts and the next level are heavily recruited by major universities.
- We may have seen the last of slugger Chris Shehan. The versatile junior was on fire all season, and his gaudy numbers will likely make him a hot commodity in the upcoming MLB draft. He scored a school-record 84 runs and finished with a .438 batting average, fourth-best in GSU history.
- The Eagles ended the year at 33-25 overall, 16-11 in conference play. They’ve won at least 30 games in all nine years under Rodney Hennon.
- Elon walked away with its first Southern Conference tournament title, advancing to the program’s third NCAA Regional. The Phoenix’s first postseason appearance came in 2002 when they were eliminated by Georgia Southern. They also went as an at-large team in 2006.
- After a long and successful run in Charleston, S.C., the SoCon baseball tournament will move to Greenville, S.C. for one year next season before returning to the banks of the Ashley River in 2010. Conference officials haven’t decided who’ll host the tournament after that.
Seniors, late nights
- Hennon couldn’t help but get a little emotional when talking about this year’s senior class of David Richardson, Jeremy Beckham, Aaron Eubanks, Burt Barto and Jeremiah Parker. Richardson came off the bench for a career year, Beckham also his best season as an Eagle, Parker provided versatility and leadership, Eubanks fought through injuries and Barto worked to stabilize the pitching staff.
- "You couldn’t ask for five better seniors," Hennon said. "I think we got the very best from those five guys. They are five great individuals that I know I’m going to miss. Their teammates will too."
- Eubanks, Richardson and Shehan were three of 25 Eagles named the SoCon’s spring academic all-conference team. To be eligible, student-athletes must carry a cumulative GPA of at least a 3.2 entering the spring season and compete in at least half of their team’s games.
- GSU twice played into the morning hours during last week’s conference tournament with Wednesday’s game not ending until 2:07 a.m. and Thursday’s contest lasting until 1:42 a.m.
- Because of the late nights, conference coaches and athletic directors are considering moving the start times of next year’s tournament up an hour to 9 a.m.
- In general, league coaches favored the new tournament format, which provided a major advantage for teams in the winner’s bracket: A day off Friday. The loser’s bracket teams battled Friday then would have had to beat the winners twice Saturday to advance to the championship game.
- The format, used years ago in the College World Series, was designed to create a one-game championship to be televised on tape delay later Sunday.
- Another benefit – it lowered the chance of an upset. Coaches said they’d prefer the best team wins the conference title, thus better representing the league in the postseason. That wasn’t the case a year ago when ninth-seeded Wofford won it all. Throughout the regular season, Elon proved it was the league’s elite. It’s performance in the tournament further illustrated that point.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.