The Florida Tech Panthers had their six-game winning streak snapped on Saturday at the hands of the Saint Leo Lions. Tech had leads in both games but SLU battled back and swept the doubleheader at Nancy Bottge Field by scores of 6-2 (9 innings), and 12-5.
Cheyenne Nelson went 5-for-5 with five singles in game one, leading the Panthers’ 12-hit outburst. Mikayla Wessel was 3-for-5 with an RBI. The Lions had 13 hits with Alexandra Hare going 3-for-4, and Kacie Kelly driving in four runs as part of a 2-for-5 day.
Those four runs Kelly knocked in were on the game-winning hit, a single up the middle in the top of the ninth, against Florida Tech starter Tina Velazquez Rolon. Rolon deserved a better outcome as she gave her team 8.1 innings, throwing 141 pitches. This is after throwing 110 pitches in Thursday’s game two win over these same Lions.
Nelson’s first hit came in the bottom of the first. She went to second on a wild pitch and went to third on a single by Wessel. Nelson tried to score on a ball hit back to Saint Leo starter Kayla Betts, but was thrown out at the plate.
Nelson would start the third the same way she started the first, and this time would steal second. She wouldn’t be there long, as Wessel doubled her home to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Wessel would later score on an Ashley Campbell single.
A walk and an error led to Saint Leo’s first run on a Madyson Coe single in the top of the fourth, trimming the Panthers lead to 2-1.
The Panthers loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning against Saint Leo reliever Sadie Avants but were unable to score. The Lions would get doubles from Hare, and Kelly in the top of the fifth. Kelly extended her hitting streak to 10 with that game-tying double.
Florida Tech threatened in the bottom of the seventh, but a baserunning gaffe at third ended the inning. They would get runners to second and third in the bottom of the eighth, but they did not score.
Saint Leo started the top of the ninth with three straight singles, bringing Kelly to the plate. Two days after setting the Lions’ all-time record for doubles, Kelly smoked a 1-1 pitch back up the middle and knocked in the tying run easily. The throw from Nelson in center to get the second runner was accurate, but it got away and went behind the plate and up the first baseline. By the time it was retrieved not only did a third run score, but Kelly came home as well, giving the Lions a 6-4 lead.
That would be more than enough as the Panthers went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
For more info: Saint Leo @ Florida Tech Box Score (Game 1)
Florida Tech (11-10, 8-9 SSC) struck first again in game one when Wessel singled off of SLU starter Maddie Mott. She came home on a Tori Szrom base hit to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Szrom would do it again in the bottom of the third knocking Wessel in to go up 2-0.
Saint Leo (15-8, 12-6 SSC) would load the bases in the top of the fourth but Panthers starter Jordan Lawlis induced a double play, started by Chloe French at second.
The Panthers put together a big inning in the bottom of the frame with Ashley Campbell getting hit and Whitney Ellis and Ashlynn Shelley both reaching on bunt singles, loading the bases. Allison Platon would pinch hit and draw a walk, scoring Campbell. Kayla Betts relieved Avants and Nelson grounded out, scoring Ellis with the fourth run. Wessel would then drive in Shelley with a single as the lead ballooned to 5-0.
The Lions answered in the top of the fifth with Kelly doubling and later scoring as part of a double steal. They would add a second run later in the inning on a Coe single against Panthers reliever Samantha Guider. The runs were both charged to Lawlis, who pitched 4.1 innings allowing four hits, and two earned runs. She walked three and struck out two, throwing 73 pitches (41 strikes).
Things fell apart for the Panthers in the top of the sixth with the Lions sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring eight times. Alli Jaquith and Hare had RBI singles to cut the Panthers’ lead to 5-4. A double off the wall by Alexis Miniet drove in two and gave SLU a 6-5 lead. An error would make it 7-5 and a two-run double by Shelby Westbrook made it 9-5. The final run came in on a Makensey Pankers base hit.
Saint Leo would add two more runs in the top of the seventh. Nelson did not get a hit in game two but finished the day 5-for-8. Wessel was 6-for-9.
For more info: Saint Leo @ Florida Tech (Game 2)
The Panthers will host Rollins in a single game on Thursday, April 22 with the first pitch scheduled for 4:00 p.m.