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West Florida Comes From Behind to Beat Panthers

Vanessa RubioPhoto credit: James Ragan Photography James Ragan Photography

The West Florida Argonauts scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth on Thursday and hung on to beat Florida Tech 6-3 in game one of the NCAA South Super Regional in Pensacola. The loss snaps the Panthers 12-game winning streak.

Panthers starter Melanie Murphy (25-6) suffered her first loss in her last 22 games, allowing five runs (three earned) in 5.1 innings pitched. it was the first loss she has suffered since March 9.

The Panthers struck first in this one. Xiarysse Emerenciana reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second. One out later, Vanessa Rubio took West Florida starter Kelsey Sweatt deep over the left-center field wall, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead. For Rubio, it was her second home run in less than a week. She hit one in Saturday’s win over Mississippi College in the South Region 2 championship game.

West Florida (52-9) got a run back in the bottom of the second, thanks to a Panthers error at second base, allowing Jacquelynne Poling to score, and cut the Panthers lead to 2-1.

Florida Tech (42-11) got that run back in the top of the fifth. After Jaden Kline walked, Sweatt was replaced by Grace Gilbert in the circle. Katie Maiello ran for Kline and promptly stole second. Two outs later, Tina Velazquez singled to right, scoring Maiello and giving the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

West Florida would inch closer in the bottom of the fifth. An error would keep the inning alive and an RBI single by Rhiannon Sassman made it 3-2.

That lead held until the bottom of the sixth when the Argos turned the game around with a four-run inning. A walk and a sacrifice bunt got Mallory Vining to second. She would score on an infield single by Courtney McLellan, tying the game 3-3. A hit batter then ended Murphy’s day.

Murphy allowed four walks and did not strike out a batter, throwing 77 pitches, 44 for strikes. She was relieved by Jordan Lawlis. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third. Rachel Wright then hit one to third, but the throw home was late, and it was 4-3. A wild pitch made it 5-3, and an RBI single by Teala Howard made it 6-3.

The Panthers got a runner on in the top of the seventh when Rubio walked and was pinch run for by Lexi Bettermann. Shanysse Emerenciana then hit a rocket to short that was caught. Bettermann was caught too far off and the double-play ended the game.

For more info: Florida Tech @ West Florida Box Score (Game 1 South Super Regional)

The Panthers are now in a must-win situation. They have to win Saturday’s second game of the series at 2:00 p.m., in order to force a decisive game three. If West Florida wins the second game, the Panthers season is over, but if Florida Tech comes away victorious, they will force a game three and that will take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two.