The Florida Tech Panthers won both ends of a doubleheader Saturday, and in the process finished a three-game sweep of the Nova Southeastern Sharks at Nancy Bottge Field in Melbourne.
“I’m really proud of the way the team is playing,” said Panthers coach Val Silvestrini. “We are playing truly as a team. Everyone is contributing, and doing their job.”
The Panthers got a key two-run home run off the bat off Xiarysse Emerenciana, helping them to a 5-2 win in game one on Saturday, and played small ball in game two, en route to a 4-1 win.
The Panthers wins combined with Embry-Riddle’s sweep of Rollins on Saturday, catapulted the Panthers into second place in the Sunshine State Conference, behind Tampa. The Spartans are 18-6 in the conference and have won 18 in a row, while the Panthers are now 17-7 in the conference, and on a three-game win streak.
With Saturday’s sweep in the books, the Panthers have bettered last year’s overall win total and their conference wins total by one, with six games still to play. They finished last season 32-21, including a 16-14 conference record.
“I knew coming into the season we had a pretty talented team,” Silvestrini said. “And they’re showing it.”
Nova jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Panthers starter Tina Velazquez in game one Saturday, getting solo home runs from Keeley Mayers and starting pitcher Lexie Storrer in the second inning. Velazquez would be taken out of the game following that second inning, allowing those two home runs. She threw just 23 pitches and did not strike out or walk a batter. Jordan Lawlis took over in the top of the third, going the rest of the way.
“They were hitting her hard and they hit two over the fence,” said Silvestrini when asked about Velazquez. “Jordan has been doing such a great job right now, that we didn’t hesitate to put her in right away.”
Florida Tech would tie the game in the bottom of the third, thanks to an RBI double from Emerenciana and an RBI single from Jaden Kline, that saw Emerenciana slide safely into home, just ahead of the tag.
The Sharks would load the bases in the fifth inning, only to see Lawlis work out of trouble. They would leave two runners on in the sixth inning.
The Panthers would start the sixth inning with a triple off the bat of Melinda Rule. Cheyenne Nelson would chase her home with a double, giving the home team a 3-2 lead. After Kline drew a walk, Emerenciana would put the game away with a two-run blast over the right-field wall. It was her first of the season and she knew it was gone, pointing her finger in the air in celebration before she hit first base.
Lawlis would hit a batter in the top of the seventh, but she was later thrown out trying to steal second, on a great throw from behind the dish by Kline.
Lawlis allowed just two hits in her five innings of work, walking one and striking out two, She threw 84 pitches.
For more info: Nova Southeastern @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 1)
Game two saw Panthers ace Melanie Murphy in the circle. She pitched Friday’s series opener, picking up her 17th win in a 7-1 Panthers victory. That matched her season win total from 2018, and on Saturday she beat that, getting a complete-game victory, and picking up win number 18.
As they did in game one, Nova Southeastern (25-19, 14-10 SSC) got on the board first in the second game, thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Sydney Lageyre in the top of the second, scoring Stephanie Wang. The Sharks had the bases loaded in the frame, but Murphy kept the damage to a minimum.
Florida Tech answered in the bottom of the inning. Velazquez doubled just inside the left field line and went to third on a single by Shanysse Emerenciana. The throw went to third, allowing Emerenciana to move up to second. Victoria Szrom singled home Velazquez to tie the game at one.
After Szrom stole second, and Melinda Rule walked, the bases were loaded with nobody out. Unfortunately for Florida Tech, they were unable to add to their run total in the frame, hitting into back-to-back force outs at home, and a groundout.
Florida Tech (33-10, 17-7 SSC) would load the bases again in the bottom of the third, thanks to a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Szrom came up and laced one that shortstop Tia Williams leaped up and snared, saving at least two runs. Rule broke the tie when she hit a ball to second, that was stopped, but could not be picked up cleanly, and even if it was, would not have gotten Rule. That made it a 2-1 game in favor of the Panthers.
Mikayla Wessel then hit one back to Miriam Schmoll in the circle, she charged the ball and dove to touch home plate ahead of Vanessa Rubio, to end the inning.
FIT scored the final two runs of the day in the bottom of the fifth. Shany Emerenciana doubled to lead things off and after being sacrificed to third, she scored on a perfect bunt to the first base side, by Rule, making it 3-1. After Rule stole second, Wessel singled, scoring Rule, who beat the throw home and gave the Panthers the 4-1 lead.
“They did what we asked them to do,” said Silvestrini. “In the first game, we felt like there were situations where we were trying to do too much and we told them, we just need to do base to base. That’s the team we are, we are not an overpowering team. That doesn’t mean that we don’t hit home runs, but we are a team that executes, we move runners, we score runners and that’s how we play.”
Murphy (18-5) went the distance for the 15th time this season, giving up one run on four hits. She walked three and struck out four, throwing 99 pitches.
For more info: Nova Southeastern @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 2)
Next up for the Panthers is a trip to Lakeland, to meet Florida Southern. The Moccasins were swept this weekend by Palm Beach Atlantic and come into the Florida Tech series sporting a 15-24 record including a 7-20 record in the SSC.
“We are confident,” Silvestrini said. “We’re getting better with every single game, so this is really good to see at the end of the season.”
Due to exam week, the Florida Southern series will start with a 6:00 p.m. game on Thursday, April 18 and conclude with a doubleheader Friday, starting at noon.