The Florida Tech Panthers earned a split on Saturday against Palm Beach Atlantic, as each team came away with a 3-2 victory in a Sunshine State Conference softball doubleheader at Nancy Bottge Field.
The first game was a pitcher’s duel between Jordan Lawlis for the Panthers and Abbey Busby for PBA, who was right back out there after throwing 108 pitches in Friday’s 2-1 loss.
Lawlis (4-1) did not allow a hit until the fourth inning when Janie McCloskey singled. Lawlis ran into a bit of trouble in the sixth when Alexis Guerra singled and pinch runner Sarah Thomas stole second. Thomas was erased on a fielder’s choice, taking the lead runner off the basepaths and that was key, as Maddie Biggs grounded out to end the inning.
McCloskey finally broke the scoreless tie in the top of the seventh, as she hit her second home run for PBA in as many days. An infield single, a wild pitch and a hit by pitch, spelled the end of the day for Lawlis, who gave way to Tina Velazquez.
Lawlis went six innings, allowing three runs on four hits. She walked one and struck out one, throwing 103 pitches. She definitely deserved a better fate.
“She did amazing,” said Panthers coach Val Silvestrini after the game. “She’s been getting better throughout this season, and it was fun to watch her pitch today because she did really well against a really good team.”
Velazquez got Edmilly Molina on strikes, but a double steal put runners at second and third. Velazquez came through again, striking out Hannah Carlton for the second out. Unfortunately, Guerra would then single to center, collecting two RBIs. She would get thrown out going to second, but the runner crossed home, and the visitors were up 3-0.
Busby came out for the seventh inning, three outs away from a no-hitter. Xiarysse Emerenciana had other ideas, as she stepped into the box and drove a ball to right field. One out later, Vanessa Rubio walked and came out in favor of pinch-runner Katrina Hand. With two outs, Shanysse Emerenciana struck out, but the ball got away from the catcher and Xiarysse scored the Panthers first run.
Alexus Smith was hit by a pitch, forcing in the second run, but the Panthers comeback was thwarted when Mikayla Wessel went down swinging, and PBA escaped with the one-run win.
For more info: Palm Beach Atlantic @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 1)
Game two saw Melanie Murphy in the circle for the Panthers and the offense got going much earlier in this game, as the Panthers came from behind to get a 3-2 win.
Busby started her third consecutive game for PBA and Cheyenne Nelson greeted her with a single before Xiarysse hit into a force out. She then stole second and one out later, Rubio chased her home single, giving the Panthers their first lead of the day.
Magnolia West, who came into this series as one of the best hitters in the Sunshine State Conference, was 0-for-8 in the series when she came up in the fourth. She promptly banged one off the top of the outfield wall, good for a triple. She would later score on an error, tying the game at one.
Biggs would give the Sailfish a 2-1 lead on a bunt single, but the Panthers caught a break when Kathryn Sutton was called out for leaving early, and Murphy was able to get a pop out to end the inning without further damage.
After Busby got through the third inning, PBA brought in Katherine Budnovich to pitch. She walked Jaden Kline, who was lifted for pinch-runner Peyton Anders. One out later, Melinda Rule was hit by a pitch and Wessel walked, to load the bases.
Busby was immediately brought back to the circle to try to get out of trouble, but Lexi Bettermann hit one to short that was bobbled, allowing Anders to score and tie the game at two. After Rule was picked off at third, Nelson singled home Wessel with the third run of the day.
Murphy would allow a single in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, but Palm Beach Atlantic never put together a threat, and the Panthers came away with the win in game two, and the series win.
“We don’t have superstars on this team, but we have really good players and we find a way to win,” said Silvestrini. “The fact that we were able to answer back in that fourth inning was huge.”
Busby ended up throwing 4.2 innings in that second game, adding up to 72 pitches worth of work. She threw 72 pitches, giving her 289 total pitches over the three games. That effort was not lost on Silvestrini.
“Kudos to her, she pitched a lot of innings this weekend and did a great job,” she said. “She was keeping us off-balance and did really well.”
On the other side, Murphy (15-5) finished her 13th complete-game of the season, giving up two runs (one earned), on six hits. She did not walk a batter and struck out five, throwing 64 of her 97 pitches for strikes.
For more info: Palm Beach Atlantic @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 2)
The Panthers (28-9, 12-6 SSC) will now turn their attention to next weekend’s series in Winter Park against first-place Rollins. The Tars (30-5, 14-4 SSC) swept a three-game series from Eckerd this weekend and will play Flagler Wednesday, before hosting Florida Tech on Friday.
“It’s gonna be a fun series between two really good teams,” said Silvestrini. “I feel like in this conference every weekend is like a Super Regional. The games are really close and really tough, and we’re excited we get to play them.”
The biggest series of the season to date, kicks off Friday night April 5, at 6:00 p.m. Saturday’s doubleheader is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start.