Panthers Gain Split Against No. 4 Tampa

The Florida Tech Panthers had a tough task ahead after losing Friday’s opener, as they faced fourth-ranked Tampa in a doubleheader at UT Stadium on Saturday. Florida Tech gained a much-needed split dropping game one 5-2, before winning game two 3-2.

The game two win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Panthers, who improved to 5-11 overall and 2-4 in the Sunshine State Conference.

Boris Villa Barros started the first game for the Panthers, and Tampa got to him early, scoring twice in the bottom of the first. After back-to-back singles put runners at the corners for the Spartans, Dan Sullivan and Josh Rulli had consecutive RBI singles.

The Panthers got one back in the top of the fourth when Rodnie Bernard doubled with one out, went to third on a passed ball and scored on an error. That made it a 2-1 ballgame. Sullivan got that run back in a hurry, leading off the bottom of the inning with a home run and giving his Spartans a 3-1 lead.

Florida Tech bounced right back in the top of the fifth when Blaise Maris singled to start the inning and scored later in the inning on a Raul Quintero groundout, closing the gap to 3-2.

Tampa was up to the task answering with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame on a Jose Cadenas solo shot, doubling the lead to 4-2. A hit-by-pitch and two walks ended the day for Villa Barros, as Justin Barney came on to get Rulli to fly out, ending the inning.

Villa Barros (1-2) got through 4.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out six, throwing 49 of his 89 pitches for strikes.

On the other side, Braydon Nelson (1-0) went five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits. He walked four and struck out four. Jacinto Arredondo came in to pitch the eighth and walked Bernard before giving up a double to Jakob Newton, putting runners at second and third. Arredondo got out of it by striking out Alec Eldridge and Brendan Riley.

Tampa added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single off the bat of Mikey Navarrete. The Panthers had the top of their order come up in the top of the ninth, but they went quietly, losing the opener 5-2.

The Panthers had just seven hits in the first game, led by Blaise Maris and Newton who each had two.

For more info: Florida Tech @ Tampa Box Score (Game 1)

Game two started as a pitcher’s duel between Florida Tech’s Joey Hecht and Tampa’s Michael Paul. Maris was hit by a pitch to start the game and he did not return, as Diego Garcia came in as a pinch-runner. Garcia would lead off the fifth inning with a double but was stranded at third.

Garcia gave up a single with one out in the bottom of the first and then went on to retire 11 Spartans in a row before Rulli singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth.

After a walk and a sack bunt moved runners to second and third for Tampa, Navarrete was walked to load the bases. That marked the end of the day for Hecht, who gave way to Blake Beyel. Beyel got a strikeout and a groundout, ending the best Tampa threat of the day.

Hecht gave the Panthers 4.1 innings, allowing two hits. He walked two and struck out three, throwing 63 pitches, 37 strikes.

The Panthers got on the board in the top of the seventh as Brett Parrish reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second. Quintero then walked and one out later, Tyler Brown singled Parrish home and Bernard matched that with a single of his own, plating Quintero, and giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

That lead didn’t last long as Tampa came back with two of their own in the bottom of the eighth. A single and a walk put two runners on and Nick Derr sent one back up the middle, plating both runners and tying the game at two.

Beyel faced two more batters before giving way to Andrew Dunham. Dunham hit the first batter he faced to load the bases but got out of the inning with a strikeout of Luke Benoit.

Dylan Owens singled to start the top of the ninth for the Panthers. After he was sacrificed to second, Tampa decided to intentionally walk Bernard. After both runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch, Newton was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Eldridge hit into a force out at the plate for the second out of the inning, but a wild pitch by Bo Weiss allowed Bernard to come home with the lead run.

After Dunham (1-0) walked the first batter in the ninth, Jake Lane was called on to get the final three outs and he did just that, earning his second save.

For more info: Florida Tech @ Tampa (Game 2)

Florida Tech returns home Monday to host Kentucky Wesleyan in the first of a two-game series. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. with game two being played Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.