Last week’s Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Pitcher Of The Week Melanie Murphy showed why she deserved that award on Friday afternoon, throwing a two-hitter against Florida Southern and leading the Florida Tech Panthers to a 4-1 win at Nancy Bottge Field.
“I thought it was a good game,” said Panthers coach Val Silvestrini. “We were aggressive on the opportunities that we had and that made the difference in the game.”
Murphy (14-7) dominated the Mocs, pitching a perfect game into the fifth inning, striking out eight along the way. It was the fifth straight win for the Panthers.
Xiarysse Emerenciana got the FIT offense going in the bottom of the first, with a single and stolen base against Florida Southern starter Kristen Beacham. One out later, Jessica Callahan drove a single to center, making it 1-0 Panthers. Callahan went to second on the throw home and she came home moments later when Makayla Palmer laced a double to left-center, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Florida Tech (27-18, 11-11 SSC) added a run in the bottom of the second. Xiary Emerenciana reached on a throwing error as her speed caused the second baseman to rush the throw to first. That speed allowed Emerenciana to go to 2nd and Mikayla Wessel chased her home with an RBI single.
The Panthers threatened in the bottom of the third when Palmer and Vanessa Rubio drew back-to-back walks to start the frame and prompted a Florida Southern pitching change. Aubrey Ehlers came in and Alexus Smith laid down a sac bunt, moving both runners up 60 feet. Ehlers was able to get the final two outs of the inning and keep the Panthers from adding to their lead.
In the top of the fifth, Murphy got Zierra Flodman to fly out and at that point, the Panthers ace had thrown 30 of her 36 pitches for strikes. Next up was Jenna Weldon, who got a pitch to hit and she did just that, sending the ball over the left-center field wall and getting the visitors on the board.
With that one swing, Weldon ended Murphy’s perfect game, no-hit bid, and shutout. To her credit, and struck out the next two batters, her sixth and seventh of the day, keeping the Moccasins damage to a minimum.
“Melanie pitched a great game,” Silvestrini said. “One bad pitch and she paid for it, but overall it was a great performance.”
Murphy has now thrown 155 innings and 21 complete games. Her Sunshine State Conference-leading earned run average is now 1.04.
“She’s been getting better through the season,” Silvestrini said. “I know that she’s thrown a lot of innings for us, but I feel like she’s peaking now at the end. Usually with pitchers when they throw a lot at the end is when they’re struggling, so I’m really happy to see that.”
The Panthers added a run in the sixth, coming with two outs in the inning. Alaina Perry pinch hit for Shanysse Emerenciana and singled. Shanysse then ran for her and immediately stole second. Xiary reached on another error at second base and Shanysse scored, upping the Panthers advantage to 4-1.
Murphy got the first two outs in the seventh, before Flodman singled, for the Mocs’ final hit. She got Weldon to ground out to end the game.
For more info: Florida Southern @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers are now 11-11 in the conference, matching their SSC win total from last year, with eight games still to play.
“Our conference is stronger this year, we have a lot of teams that are really good,” Silvestrini said. “I think we have home-field advantage. When you look at the results this year, the team at home has a better chance to win the series, so I am happy we are home this weekend. There are no guarantees, you just have to show up and play your best.”
This series wraps up Saturday with a doubleheader, beginning at 1:00 p.m.