The Florida Tech Panthers made their trip to Clearwater well worth it this weekend. The Panthers beat Lenoir-Rhyne 3-1 on Sunday, giving them a 5-0 record and the NFCA Leadoff Classic Division II title.
The Panthers (7-2) scattered seven hits in the game, two by Alexus Smith. Florida Tech pitching has been the story this weekend, and that continued Sunday, as Melanie Murphy and Tina Velazquez combined on a four-hitter.
The win stretches the Florida Tech win streak to six games.
Murphy got off to a fast start, striking out three in the first inning. Her counterpart Brandi Parks was up to the task as well, allowing only a single to Smith in the first two innings. After that first inning, Murphy got the Bears in order through the next three innings. She gave up a single to Leanna Sherrill to start the fifth.
After a sacrifice bunt by Cherise Cowoski got Sherill to second, Murphy was lifted in favor of Velazquez. Murphy allowed just one hit in 4.1 innings of work. She walked two and struck out six.
Velazquez gave up a single to the first hitter she faced, putting runners at first and third. Pinch-hitter Kailey Travis struck out swinging with the runners in motion, and Ashten Hinkle kept coming home, despite the strikeout and Vanessa Rubio was able to tag her out, completing the inning-ending double play.
That would prove to be a big play, as the Panthers broke through on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning. Victoria Szrom singled with one out and was pinch run for by Rachel Kraak. A bunt single by Shanysse Emerenciana got Kraak to third and an alert Emerenciana went to second on the play.
Mikayla Wessell laid down a bunt and got both runs home. She was credited with one RBI, as the second run was allowed due to interference. That gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Wessell would then steal second and third, but she was left stranded.
Florida Tech would pick up their final run of the day in the sixth inning. Velazquez and Rubio hit back-to-back singles and after a grounder by Ally Carver moved the runners up, Smith singled home Peyton Anders, who ran for Velazquez.
With the Panthers up 3-0, Mackensi Swain broke up the shutout, taking Velazquez deep to start the seventh. That was all the Bears would be able to muster, as Velazquez recovered nicely, retiring the next three batters, to end the game and give the Panthers the title.
Velazquez gave up one run on three hits in 2.2 innings of work.She struck out two and did not walk a batter.
For more info: Lenoir Rhyne @ Florida Tech Box Score (Clearwater, FL)
The Panthers will play at Flagler Tuesday night in a regional matchup. First pitch in St. Augustine is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.