Melanie Murphy made history on Thursday afternoon, throwing a no-hitter in the series-opening game against the Lynn Fighting Knights at Nancy Bottge Field. Lynn bounced back in game two, winning 9-3.
For Murphy, the no-hitter is another highlight in what has been a stellar season for her. She brought her Sunshine State Conference-leading earned run average down to 0.99 with Thursday’s win. Opposing hitters are now batting .184 against her.
Pitching coach Amanda Haverman, who like Murphy is in her first year with the Panthers had praise heaped on her from Murphy, who was asked if she expected to have this kind of season in her first year with the Panthers.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect it to go as well as it’s going,” she said. “Coach Haverman really broke down my mechanics and told me what I was doing wrong, so I really tried to focus on how to throw each pitch and I think that’s what really helped me this year, was mechanics.”
Murphy (16-9) has come close to accomplishing the feat on a few occasions this season, but Thursday was the day it finally came together. A walk to Kayla Sheffield in the third inning was the only blemish on her final line, which included eight strikeouts.
“She’s been close before but I feel like she always throws like that,” said Panthers head coach Val Silvestrini. “Sometimes she got unlucky and the hitters got one ball through the infield or something like that, but there has not been one time this season that she hasn’t given us a chance to win.”
This was Murphy’s 25th complete game of the season, which is an accomplishment on its own, but she wasn’t aware it was more than that until after it was all over.
“I didn’t even know I was throwing a no-hitter until they all came out after the game and were screaming, and then I realized I threw it,” Murphy said. “It finally feels good to get one under my belt but it’s a team thing really though because my defense worked hard behind me just as much as I pitched the ball. It felt good to have them behind me.”
Florida Tech gave Murphy all the run support she would need in the bottom of the first. Xiarysse Emerenciana dropped down a bunt single and stole second. She moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mikayla Wessel and she scored on a sacrifice bunt by Jessica Callahan, who bunted it right back to Francais Olexa in the pitcher’s circle. She charged toward the plate and fielded it cleanly, but Emerenciana crossed the plate safely.
The Panthers would add to their lead in the third inning. After Emerenciana was hit by a pitch, she swiped second again. Wessel’s infield single moved her to third and she later scored on a sac fly by Makayla Palmer. An RBI single from Vanessa Rubio would give the home team a 3-0 lead. An Alexus Smith single moved Rubio to third and that duo would pull off a double steal, with Rubio swiping home for the Panthers fourth run of the day.
Murphy had at least one strikeout in every inning but the sixth. Birthday girl Rachel Kraak made the defensive play of the game in that inning snaring a line drive at first base that was hit on a line and most certainly ticketed for right field.
For more info: Lynn @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 1)
Game two started well for the Panthers with starting pitcher McKenzie Krutsinger sending the Fighting Knights down in order in the first. Lynn got their first hit of the day in the top of the second, a single off the bat of Karolina Flores. Krutsinger worked around it, but she would run into trouble with two outs in the fourth.
Sheffield and Flores hit back-to-back singles and a double by Shayle Arenson plated both runners and forced a change in the circle, as Amanda Kahn took over for Krutsinger. It took Kahn just two pitches to get the final out.
Florida Tech (31-21, 15-14 SSC) got one run back in the bottom of the frame on an Alexus Smith sacrifice fly.
Lynn (25-24, 13-16 SSC) would add three runs in the top of the fifth with the help of two Panther errors and just like that it was 5-1.
The Panthers would get two more in the bottom of the fifth. Shanysse Emerenciana was hit by a pitch but quickly erased on a fielder’s choice, switching places at first with sister Xiary. After Wessel singled, Callahan walked, loading the bases. Palmer then smoked a two-run single to center, making it 5-3.
Kahn was keeping the Panthers in it until she ran into trouble in the seventh. She allowed a single and then hit two consecutive batters to load the bases. Alaina Perry was then called on to pitch. She walked Arenson to force in a run and a single from Sophia Devesa made it 7-3. A two-run single by Taylor Stezco made it 9-3.
“I don’t know if we were a little overconfident maybe, and thought these were gonna be easy games,” said Silvestrini after game two. “We need to show up and bring our best. We gave them a lot of free bases with errors walks and hit by pitches.”
For more info: Lynn @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 2)
The Panthers will wrap up the regular season at noon Friday, with the final game of this three-game series. It is also Senior Day, so make sure you get out to the field early.