Rhett Willis (2-0) was perfect through five innings and got plenty of help from his offense on Wednesday, leading the Florida Tech Panthers to a 9-2 win over Malone in Winter Park, FL.
The Panthers (8-7) had 13 hits in the win, forcing Malone to use six pitchers. Jacob Buser was 2-for-3 at the plate, driving in three runs. Ninth-place hitter Pedro Rivera went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, and two runs scored. Dylan Owens went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Florida Tech gave Willis more than enough support, starting in the third inning when they put three on the board against Pioneers starter Shawn Mills. He got Alec Eldridge to ground out and then gave up singles to Rivera and Bernard. One out later, reliever Clay Cooper gave up a two-run single to the hot hitting Jacob Buser. An RBI double by Owens made it 3-0.
The Panthers would add four more in the fourth on an RBI single by Rivera and a two-run double by James Gronberg. After a steal of third, Gronberg came home on a single by Buser, giving the Panthers a comfortable 7-0 lead.
Willis cruised through five innings, striking out five batters. He threw 58 pitches, 42 for strikes. Just speculation, but you have to believe that Willis was on a hard pitch count that he hit, prompting a pitching change.
Justin Barney came in to start the sixth and immediately gave up a single to Josh Haygood. Barney then got Cade Mottice to ground into a double play, and ended the inning, getting a strikeout of Zach Mottice.
The Panthers final two runs came in the fifth inning. A hit-by-pitch, a walk, a walk, and a stolen base allowed Rivera to come up with runners at the corners and he delivered with an RBI single, making it 8-0. They would score their ninth run on a passed ball and ended up leaving the bases loaded, as Owens flew out to end the inning.
Florida Tech looked poised to add to their lead in the sixth when Blaise Maris, Brett Parris, and Eldridge drew consecutive walks against Danny Miller who started the inning. Doug Belanger came in and was able to get the final two outs, as Florida Tech left the bases loaded again.
The Panthers defense stepped up in the eighth, throwing a runner out at third, as Parris threw to Bernard, who threw to Eldridge, who made the tag at third. With a runner on, Haygood stepped to the plate and broke up the shutout with one swing, taking Barney deep and making it a 9-2 game.
For more info: Malone @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers continue regional play on Wednesday on the road against the Flagler Saints. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.