Melanie Murphy (8) and Tina Velazquez played key roles in the Panthers win on Friday over NSU. Cindy Rieber

The 10th-ranked Florida Tech Panthers got their weekend off to a good start on Friday, with a 7-1 win over the Nova Southeastern Sharks in the opening game of a three-game series at Nancy Bottge Field.

“The first game of the series is very important,” said Panthers coach Val Silvestrini. “To be able to win it sets the tone for the weekend.”

The Panthers (31-10, 15-7 SSC) had 10 hits on the day against Sharks pitcher Miriam Schmoll, including 2-for-3 days from Cheyenne Nelson and Shanysse Emerenciana. Xiarysse Emerenciana with a game-high three RBIs.

“I thought we played really well overall,” said Silvestrini. “We had good pitching, but we also had good defense and we hit the ball well.”

Tina Velazquez got the Panthers on the board in the bottom of the second, taking Schmoll deep over the right-field wall, on a 1-1 count, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

They would add to their lead in the bottom of the third. Mikayla Wessel walked and Nelson singled on the infield, going to second on a throwing error. Xiary Emerenciana’s groundout made it 2-0. The Panthers failed to add on, despite having the bases loaded.

Panthers starter Melanie Murphy (17-5) was not her usual dominant self on this day, struggling with her command a bit, but she worked out of trouble in a couple of innings, not allowing a run in her four innings of work.

She got some help from her defense in the top of the fourth, as Shany Emerenciana made a great play on a ball hit by Stephanie Wang. Third baseman Melinda Rule dove, but the ball eluded her. Emerenciana was there to back her up and make an accurate throw to first to get the out.

Murphy walked three batters and hit two more but she battled her way through, striking out two along the way. She threw 96 pitches, 62 of those for strikes and the Sharks had her on the hook a couple of times, but she wiggled off nicely.

“We were able to keep Murph fresh for tomorrow,” Silvestrini said. “We were able to do that.”

Florida Tech got some insurance in the fourth inning, plating three runs. Pinch-runner Rachel Kraak stole second ahead of an infield hit from Victoria Szrom. A Nelson single loaded the bases, but the throw in the infield was wild, and Kraak alertly came home to make it 3-0. Xiary Emerenciana followed with a two-run double, giving the Panthers a 5-0 lead.

Jordan Lawlis took over for Murphy in the fifth and earned the three-inning save. She walked two and struck out two, throwing 38 of her 60 pitches for strikes.

Florida Tech added another run in the bottom of the inning when Rule and Shany Emerenciana pulled off a double steal, making it 6-0. The final run came when current SSC Player of the Week Jaden Kline singled and Peyton Anders was called on to pinch-run. Two outs later, Katie Maiello came through with an RBI single.

NSU (25-17, 14-8) got their run in the top of the seventh, thanks to a fielding error, but Lawlis came back to get Alex Suzuki to hit into a game-ending double play.

For more info: Nova Southeastern @ Florida Tech Box Score 

Florida Tech got four hits from their first three hitters in the lineup, but also got two from the sixth-place hitter in Shany Emerenciana and Mikayla Wessel had one at the bottom of the order to go along with the pinch-hit RBI single from Maiello.

“Our lineup is very deep and that’s nice to have,” Silvestrini said. “And we have players that can come off the bench and produce as well.”

The series wraps up Saturday with a doubleheader starting at noon at Nancy Bottge Field.

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