The Florida Tech Panthers (11-2) got their big weekend off on the right foot with a 2-1 win over the Columbus State Cougars in the Florida Tech Invitational at the USSSA Complex in Viera, FL. The win is the 10th in a row for the Panthers.
“I think that all the games we’ve played this year have been a battle,” said Panthers coach Val Silvestrini. “I’m really proud of this team, they’re always finding a way to go home with a W.”
Tina Velazquez knocked in both runs for the Panthers and Melanie Murphy went the distance, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
Murphy threw 100 pitches, allowing three hits and an unearned run. She struck out five and walked two.
“She’s getting better every single game,” Silvestrini said of Murphy. “She did a really good job keeping this lineup off balance and giving us a chance to win.”
Florida Tech got on the board in the bottom of the first against Cougars starter Peyton Sorrells. Xiarysse Emerenciana reached base on a force out and stole second. She came home on Velazquez’s RBI single, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The Panthers would pick up another run in the third inning.
Lexi Bettermann singled with one out but was forced at second on a ball hit by Cheyenne Nelson. Emerenciana then reached on an error, putting runners at first and second. That brought Velazquez to the plate and she smoked one just fair down the right field line, scoring Nelson and giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
“She’s doing a great job,” Sivestrini said of Velazquez. “I was surprised because at her previous school she didn’t hit much, but when we saw her at practice we knew we had to find a spot for her in the lineup and she’s hitting the ball really well.”
In the top of the fourth, Murphy ran into a bit of trouble, walking two batters, but was able to work out of it getting Elizabeth Perdue to fly out to Ally Carver in right field.
Columbus State (5-6) got their first hit in the top of the fifth on an infield single by Mary Horne. A ground out by Chandler DesRochers got the Panthers out of the inning.
Florida Tech was on the verge of picking up an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, when they loaded the bases, thanks to two walks and an error. Carver hit the ball hard, but Madeline Parker made a nice play at short, ending the threat.
The Cougars finally broke through in the sixth inning. After an error allowed Morgan Elston to reach, Kirstin Reynolds chased her home with a triple. Elyse Ambrose then flew into deep left field, where Bettermann was waiting. She caught it and unleashed a rocket throw to the plate, cutting down Reynolds and preserving the 2-1 lead for the Panthers.
“Lexi’s very solid in left field and she’s had really good plays for us last year and this year,” said Silvestrini. “That was huge. When I saw the ball, I stood up because I knew she was gonna have a good chance, and she executed.”
Perdue singled to start the Cougars seventh and was sacrificed to second by Madeline Parker. One out later, pinch-hitter Maddie Dodson hit one back to Murphy in the circle and her throw was high, forcing Rachel Kraak to apply the tag at first. Initially, she was ruled safe at first, which allowed the tying run to score. Silvestrini asked the umpires to get together and after talking it over, Dodson was ruled out at first, taking the run off the board and ending the game.
“Melanie had great plays throughout the game on balls hit to her, but I don’t know what she was thinking there, flipping that ball,” said Silvestrini. “I’m just glad Rachel stuck with it and went for the tag. I asked the umpire to ask for a second opinion because I thought the home plate umpire had a better angle and I’m glad it went our way.”
Cougars coach Brad Huskisson was fuming and let the umpires know he wasn’t happy, but the call stood and the Panthers went home with their 10th win in a row.
For more info: Columbus State @ Florida Tech Box Score
The tournament continues Saturday, as the Panthers take on the University of North Georgia at 2:30 p.m. and Converse College at 5:00 p.m.