Panther Softball opened the inaugural Florida Tech/ Marriott Kickoff Classic against the Texas Women’s Pioneers, right here at Florida Tech’s Nancy Bottge Field on Jan. 29.
This game was the first played in the NCAA softball season across all divisions.
In the first inning, after stealing two bases, Florida Tech’s Elaine Brown assisted by Krista Patterson #18 scored Florida Tech’s first run of the game.
In the fifth inning, assisted by Karina Suicava and her sacrifice fly, Hailey Leonard gained Florida Tech’s second and last run of the game.
The Panthers kept the Pioneers from scoring for the next two innings, and won the game with a final score of Florida Tech 2, Texas Women’s 0.
ASSC Best Pitcher, Rachel Pence, had an excellent game, striking out seven Texas Women’s batters, and allowing only three hits by TWU.
“I had a great defense playing behind me,” said Pence. “It definitely helped to take some of the pressure off when we got on the board early in the game.”
The next game of the day was Texas Women’s versus the Lynn University Fighting Knights. Lynn University defeated the Pioneers with a final score of Lynn 5, TWU 2.
The third and final game of the day was between Florida Tech and Lynn University.
Hopes were high coming into this game after the Panthers shut out TWU. However, in the second inning, Lynn university scored a spirit-crushing six runs.
That did not stop Leonard from swinging for a home run in the bottom of the second inning, putting Florida Tech on the board.
Another five and a half innings went by with Florida Tech holding Lynn at six runs, shutting them out for six of the seven innings.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Leonard again swung for a home run. With it came a glint of extra hope for the Panthers.
“After a hit like that, you always think it’s going to be a rally, and all of a sudden you’re going to score more runs,” said Val Silvestrini, head coach for the Panthers.
The excitement was short-lived. The Panthers could not come up with the four more runs needed to tie the game.
The final score was Florida Tech 2, Lynn University 6.
“We have a great team and I think we’ll make really good adjustments from today, we learned a lot,” said Pence.
The first game on Saturday was Lynn University versus Mars Hill, Mars Hill won this match-up with a final score of Lynn 3, Mars Hill 9.
The Panthers were back on the field, and in the second inning, it became clear that the adjustments made were just what Florida Tech needed.
There were two runs in this inning by Emily York and Krista Patterson, followed by three runs in the third inning.
The rally was started by Audrey Gangloff, running home after another hit by Patterson. Then two consecutive runs were scored by York and Patterson, thanks to Ashley Montion’s batting.
The run train continued into the fourth and fifth innings as well, with Sarah Hayes and Elaine Brown both scoring in the fourth.
Leonard brought in Montion with a hard grounder in the fifth to end the game.
With an final score of 8-0, the Panthers came out as a different team than they were the day before.
“It seems that we were very nervous. It was the first day of the season and they were very tense,” said Silvestrini. “We told them, what’s the worst thing that can happen? We strike out, we lose a game. That doesn’t matter. What does is that we’re in the moment, and we’re ready for the next play. And they took that very well.”
Florida Tech finished the tournament with two more games on Sunday, one match up with the Flagler Saints at Nancy Bottge Field, and a rematch with Texas Women’s at Melbourne High School’s softball field, coming out with two wins and improving 4-1 in the season opening tournament.
“I feel really, really good,” Silvestrini said in a press release. “I feel like we got better every single game and got the nerves out of the way. We started swinging better, being more aggressive on the bases, executing and scoring runs. It was a really good weekend.”