The Florida Tech Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night, as Rodnie Bernard hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Panthers a 4-3 win at Andy Seminick-Les Hall Field.
“We’ve struggled here recently to find a way to get on top of some of these games,” said Panthers head coach Greg Berkemeier, after the win. “At the end of the day, we did find a way to get the W, which was obviously huge.”
Ryan Allain (1-2) got the win in relief of starter Justin Lorenz, who went seven innings, giving up one run on four hits. Jake Lane pitched the eighth inning, working out of trouble, and getting two strikeouts, including one to end the inning.
Lorenz definitely deserved a better fate, as he did not walk a batter and struck out three in his seven innings of work. He threw 84 pitches, including 56 for strikes.
“I thought JJ threw the ball incredibly well,” said Berkemeier. “He did a good job of keeping them off-balance.”
Florida Tech (15-12) got on the board first, scoring twice in the second inning. Flagler starter Jett Walsh walked Dylan Owens, who went to second on a wild pitch. With Blaise Maris at the plate, the skies opened up and resulted in a 38-minute rain delay.
When the game resumed, Walsh walked Maris and Brett Parrish, loading the bases. One out later, Pedro Rivera stroked a two-run double to left, putting the Panthers up 2-0. Walsh would walk Vinny Catanza, and he got the hook. Colt Mink came in in relief and got the final two outs.
The Saints (16-17) got on the board in the fifth when Elliot Schubert singled, stole second and went to third on an error. He would later score on a Nikolas Dague sacrifice fly, closing the gap to one.
James Gronberg appeared to get the Panthers off to a good start in the bottom of the fifth, with a sinking liner to left field. Originally, Gronberg was awarded a hit and pulled into second, but after discussion between the two umpires, the call was changed, and the out was given.
“They got together and the first base umpire had the catch,” said Berkemeier. “I guess they felt like he secured the baseball, and I’ll agree to disagree”, he said with a smile.
With offense at a premium on this night, you wondered if that call was going to make a difference in the game, but the Panthers did get a gift run in the seventh. Catanza singled to start the frame and after Bernard sacrificed him to second, and Gronberg’s grounder got him to third, Flagler reliever Dante Pagano was called for a balk, giving the Panthers a 3-1 lead.
Lane walked Steven DiPuglia to start the ninth inning, and Berkemeier went to get him, bringing in Allain. Allain would walk Aaron Anderson and Sean Lawlor, loading the bases for the Saints. Schubert hit into a force at second, but the Panthers were unable to complete the double play, as the ball was thrown away by Rivera at short, allowing two runs to score, tying the game at three.
Despite the struggles, Allain bounced back in a big way after the tying runs scored, picking Schubert off at first and then striking out pinch-hitter Jason Moore, ending the inning.
“Ryan didn’t have a good feel for his stuff today,” Berkemeier said. “But when he needed too, he got the big pickoff and then be able to execute pitches to be able to get out of that inning and keep it right there, to give us a chance.”
Keeping Flagler from another run would be key, because with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Catanza reached on an infield single and got to second on a wild pitch. Bernard would then drive him in with a double to left, giving the Panthers a big 4-3 win in walk-off fashion.
“A big at-bat there by Vinny, getting on base and being able to score on that knock,” said Berkemeier. “That was huge, and obviously something very needed.”
For more info: Flagler @ Florida Tech Box Score
Next up for the Panthers is a weekend road trip to Milledgeville, GA to take on Georgia College.
“We got a tough weekend, Georgia College is gonna be a real challenge for us,” said Berkemeier. “They came here and swept us last year, so we gotta do a better job on that and get out there and compete with them.”