The Citadel scored four times in the bottom of the seventh to take a 5-2 lead before Elon stormed back for six runs an inning later to defeat the Bulldogs 8-5 in the opening game of a Southern Conference series at Riley Park.
The loss was the eighth in the last 10 games for The Citadel (16-15, 5-5 SoCon) while Elon won for the 12th time in its past 16 outings to improve to 19-12 and 11-5 in the conference. The Phoenix has won eight in a row in the series over the past three years.
The Bulldogs will look to even the series Saturday at 2 p.m. and the final game of the set is Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Citadel trailed 2-1 but singles by Bo Thompson and Tyler Griffin and a sacrifice bunt by Calvin Orth put the lead runs in scoring position. Johnathan Stokes drove in Thompson with a base hit, and a sacrifice fly by Bret Hines plated Griffin to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
Mason Davis then capped the four-run inning with a shot into the alley in left center for a double which scored two runs and boosted The Citadel's lead to 5-2.
It proved to be a short-lived cushion as the first seven Elon batters reached in the eighth off the relief duo of Zach Sherrill and David Rivera. Sebastian Gomez had an RBI single and another run scored on the same play when Griffin's throw from right eluded catcher Joe Jackson to bring the Phoenix within 5-4.
Rivera took over on the mound and was greeted by a three-run homer to right by Ryan Kinsella, his 10th of the year, to give Elon the lead back at 7-5. Two singles, a balk and a ground out produced the final Phoenix run of the inning before James Reeves was finally able to quiet the Elon bats, allowing just one hit and striking out two in two relief innings.
The Elon rally wasted a solid effort on the mound from Bulldog starter Austin Pritcher, who went seven innings and allowed three hits and two runs with three walks and five strikeouts.
The senior right hander gave up two hits and a run in the first but settled down after that and faced the minimum 12 batters over the next four innings. Meanwhile, The Citadel tied it in the second when Bo Thompson slammed his 10th homer of the year but wasted opportunities in the third and fourth with a runner at second and less than two outs.
The Phoenix took the lead back in the sixth without the benefit of a base hit. Gomez walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and came around on a pair of groundouts to put Elon in front 2-1.
Gomez had a perfect night at the plate with four hits and a walk while Kinsella drove in five runs. Davis, Thompson and Armstrong each had two hits for the Bulldogs but the remainder of the lineup was held to three hits by the combination of Dylan Clark and Andrew MacDonald.
Clark tossed seven innings and allowed all nine Citadel hits while fanning three to win for the fourth time in six decisions this season. MacDonald came out of the pen to throw two perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts to earn his second save of the year.