CAA Baseball

CAA Matchups Of The Week: First Place On The Line In Elon-UNCW Series

CAA Matchups Of The Week: First Place On The Line In Elon-UNCW Series

A skirmish for first place and multi-game winning streaks could be on the line when CAA baseball returns this weekend. Take a look at some key matchups.

Apr 6, 2023 by Briar Napier
CAA Matchups Of The Week: First Place On The Line In Elon-UNCW Series

There are doses of drama already being scattered throughout the Colonial Athletic Association baseball landscape in early April.

If that’s any indication, then the league is going to see some turmoil in the several weeks before postseason play hits.

A skirmish for first place and multi-game winning streaks could be on the line when CAA baseball returns this weekend – both of which are more than worth paying attention to, as the thick of the midseason grind is underway.

Whomever handles the peaks and valleys of the season with the most level-headedness likely is going to be sitting at, or near, the top of the league standings in May.

Stay updated on the hijinks bound to arrive in the CAA. A lot of the framework for any late-season tension could be set this weekend, judging by the matchups on tap across the conference.

Here’s a look ahead at the games to watch across the CAA schedule this week, with many matchups throughout the conference schedule being streamed live on FloBaseball.

NOTE: All times are listed in Eastern Time and are subject to change.

Elon Vs. UNC Wilmington

It’s an obvious series to watch, but it’s for very good reason. 

The CAA’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams as of Tuesday afternoon, respectively, Elon and UNCW have best handled what’s been a fairly chaotic conference slate this season, and they’re the only two programs in the CAA with a league winning percentage of .750 or higher. 

This weekend, they tussle against each other with possible first place on the line. 

The Phoenix have won 6-of-7 (prior to their midweek game against Wake Forest, which hasn’t occurred at the time of writing) and came back to win their series against Towson this past weekend by nabbing back-to-back victories after losing the Friday opener to the Tigers. 

Elon’s 10-2 start to CAA play is tied for its best since joining the league in 2015, with consistency and players having the ability to give the rest of the lineup offensive opportunities when needed helping push the Phoenix forward. 

For instance, junior Cole Reynolds ended Sunday with a reached-base streak of 21 games, while redshirt junior Connor Coolahan has an on-base percentage in CAA play of .605 – the best individual mark in the league by nearly half a percentage point. 

On top of all of that, Elon’s got the best pitching staff in CAA play thus far, too, holding a league-low 2.50 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 108 innings, paced by freshman right-hander Justin Mitrovich, who’s 3-0 with an 0.81 ERA. 

Meanwhile at UNCW, the Seahawks’ run of four wins in five games arguably is more impressive, despite the reduced length.

UNCW upset a top-10 team last week in then-No. 8 East Carolina and claimed a 2-1 series win over an underrated North Carolina A&T team, hitting .333 as team over the three games, while limiting the Aggies to a .226 average.

It’ll be a dogfight at Elon this weekend, but whichever program emerges on top will have (even more) serious cred across the CAA.

Hofstra Vs. Charleston

Having closed this past weekend out on a sudden four-game losing stretch, Charleston needs a way to rebound, and fast, to get back into the conversation as one of the CAA’s regular-season favorites. 

Can that rebound occur against a visiting Hofstra program that has been playing much better over the past couple of weeks? That remains to be seen. 

But after Delaware ripped off three straight victories on the Cougars – the first two of which were by eight- and 16-run margins, the last of which was won by the Blue Hens on a 13th-inning walk-off – C of C is left needing to get back on the right path and continue its charge for a repeat conference crown. 

A five-game homestand that started Tuesday could help with that, as the Cougars are 14-4 (as of this writing) at Patriots Point this year and have won 39 games in all over the past two seasons at their home venue, giving them a bit more of a boost when the Pride come to town. 

Speaking of the Pride, they’ll come to South Carolina off the back of a 2-1 series win over Stony Brook in their last stretch of games against CAA opposition, getting a complete-game shutout on the mound Sunday from returning first-team All-CAA right-hander Brad Camarda.

It was by far his strongest outing of the year and came after a shaky start (2-1, 6.82 ERA, 21 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched this season). 

With a win over a ranked West Virginia squad March 21 on its resume, too, Hofstra is a potential candidate to be a late bloomer in the latter portions of the CAA’s schedule. 

If that surge comes during this weekend's three-game series, and Charleston isn’t properly prepared, the Cougars’ recent slide could turn into a much more dangerous spiral. 

Northeastern Vs. Delaware

Here’s the complete list of teams in the nation (as of Tuesday afternoon) that have the same, or fewer, losses than Northeastern, at 22-4 overall: South Carolina, Kentucky, Wake Forest, LSU, Virginia, Campbell. 

It’s rare and esteemed air, but it’s also a position the Huskies have more than earned their way into, following a double-digit winning streak that’s acted as one of the longest in the country. 

Northeastern had an electric March, finishing with a 16-3 record, while popping 31 homers (a number that is higher than what seven CAA teams have managed to hit all season), closing out the show and starting April strong with a sweep of Monmouth.

The Huskies came back from being down two runs in the eighth inning on Sunday to extend their winning run to 10 games. 

Against Delaware, though, they’re going to have to contain a player who has more than enough power in his arsenal to help keep the Blue Hens within striking distance – or even pluck a game or two entirely off of Northeastern this weekend. 

That player is redshirt junior infielder and returning All-CAA first-team pick Joey Loynd, whose league-leading 38 RBIs is impressive enough, but in conference play, the Pennsylvania native has exploded onto the scene. 

Through UD’s conference games, Loynd is slashing a ridiculous .489/.531/.933 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.

He is one of the driving forces behind Delaware’s epic sweep of Charleston (the Blue Hens’ first against the Cougars in program history) over the weekend. He had six hits and four RBIs over the three games. 

To do something similar against the Huskies this weekend would bump up Loynd’s chances of being an All-CAA selection once again, but with Northeastern trying to get rolling in league play (having had three CAA losses already) and show Elon and UNCW it’s also here to party in the regular-season title race, the Huskies could use a statement series against a conference foe to prove that point.