Photo: Cheyenne Nelson – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics
The Florida Tech Panthers and Palm Beach Atlantic played two classic softball games on Saturday with each team winning a 1-0 extra-inning game at Simpson Field in West Palm Beach.
After the Panthers took game one in 10 innings, Palm Beach Atlantic answered with a game two win in eight innings. Game two was played under protest by Florida Tech
This was originally scheduled to be a single game starting at 5:00 p.m. but it was changed to a doubleheader and started at 4:00 p.m. Game one was a pitching clinic as Tina Velazquez Rolon and Abbey Busby squared off, matching pitch-for-pitch in the early going.
“Tina has been pitching spectacularly lately,” said Panthers coach Val Silvestrini. “She has done everything we ask her to do and Busby is a tough matchup and one of the best in the nation. It was great to see them pitch.”
PBA did get a runner to third in the bottom of the first when Briana Rodriguez walked and stole second before moving to third on a wild pitch. Velazquez Rolon settled down and got out of the inning, collecting two of her seven strikeouts.
Cheyenne Nelson who came into the game as the Panthers leading hitter went 5-for-8 in the doubleheader, hitting a single to lead off the fourth inning. She was promptly thrown out trying to steal on a very close play. That would prove to be a big play because Chloe French would single and go to second on a wild pitch, only to be left anchored there.
Velazquez Rolon started the bottom of the fourth with two strikeouts before Dallas Watterson got the first hit of the day for the Sailfish. Nothing would come of it and the game went to the fifth with no score. Both teams would strand a runner in that inning.
Nelson would single again in the sixth and French would reach on an error only to see Busby work out of trouble. The Panthers would leave a runner at second in the seventh but things were quiet after that until the 10th inning.
Kelly McLaughlin started as the free-runner for Florida Tech thanks to the International Tiebreaker rule. Emily Figueroa sacrificed her to third and Nelson hit a fly ball to left field, just deep enough for McLaughlin to beat the throw home and give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Sammy Perez was the PBA runner to start the bottom of the frame and she was sacrificed to third. Hayley Haas then hit one to third that Ashley Campbell fielded and bluffed Perez back to third. Perez got into a rundown and looked to go out of the baseline but no call was made.
“I thought she was way out of the baseline,” said Silvestrini when asked about the Perez play. “I asked (the umpire) about it but he thought the call he made was the right call.”
She got back safely and Haas moved to second. Velazquez Rolon kept her cool and got the next batter top hit into a force at home and a ground out would follow, as the Panthers escaped with a 1-0 win.
Velazquez Rolon (4-2) pitched all 10 innings, allowing just two hits. She walked three to go with her seven strikeouts, throwing 96 of her 137 pitches for strikes. Busby (10-4) was on the short end of this one despite 10 innings of work and only six hits given up. She walked two and struck out four, throwing 131 pitches, 90 for strikes.
Campbell deserves praise as well for her defense as she made some nice plays at the hot corner in game one, as she has all season long. She had a force out stepping on the bag at third, she was alert on a force at home and her fielding was top-notch all game long.
“Our defense was solid and Ashley stopped everything going her way,” Silvestrini said. “She got a runner at third in the rundown and on the next play Kelly got the runner out at home.”
For more info: Florida Tech @ PBA Box Score (Game 1)
Game two had different pitchers in the circle but the scoreless innings mounted in this one as well. This was counted as a regional game, while game one was a Sunshine State Conference game.
Jordan Lawlis (4-7) deserved better in this game as she gave the Panthers 7.1 innings allowing only three hits, walking four, and striking out six. She threw 98 pitches, 59 strikes. Cambria Arturo was up to the task for the Sailfish, striking out three in 7.2 innings of work. She scattered five hits.
After the Panthers’ defense turned a nice double play to end the third inning, Nelson singled to begin the fourth but she was unable to get any further than second.
The Panthers (13-13, 10-10 SSC) threatened in the top of the sixth with a single off the glove of PBA starter Cambria Arturo. She stole second and went to third on a single by French. French stole second but Arturo got the next two outs.
The Panthers would leave a runner at second in the seventh, and this game as the first game did headed into extra innings.
With the second game being a regional contest the International Tiebreaker rule goes into effect in the eighth inning. McLaughlin was there to start the inning. Mikayla Wessel attempted to sacrifice McLaughlin to third but was called out as the umpire said the ball hit her leaving the box. That not only meant Wessel was out but it sent McLaughlin back to second. Silvestrini immediately came out to argue the call and with Palm Beach Atlantic showed multiple replays and it was very clear that the ball never touched Wessel.
Silvestrini immediately protested the game based on that call. “I didn’t think the base umpire can make that call from 90-feet away,” she said. “We changed that rule to say now that if either umpire sees it, they can call it.”
The protest was denied because of that change. Now that either umpire can make the call, the mechanics were correct. It is unfortunate that the Sunshine State Conference does not have replay for circumstances like this. The fact that Rollins and PBA can show replays, means the technology is there. Yes, it is an expense, but they need to get these calls right. Silvestrini had another idea besides replay.
“We need another umpire,” she said. “A third umpire is not only an extra set of eyes, but he will be in a position to make the call and have a better view of it.”
For more info: Florida Tech @ PBA Box Score (Game 2)
The 2021 season will conclude today with these two teams playing a doubleheader at Nancy Bottge Field. Game one starts at 3:00 p.m.