Rachel Pence Fires Perfect Game in Season Opener

By  //  February 3, 2014

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freshman strikes out 10 in Tech’s 10-0 victory

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — Florida Tech freshman Rachel Pence accomplished a feat only a few will ever experience, firing a five-inning perfect game in the Panthers’ season-opening 10-0 victory over Fort Valley State Saturday at Nancy Bottge Field.

Rachel Pence threw a gem in front of a packed crowd Saturday afternoon at Nancy Bottge Field. (Florida Tech image)

Rachel Pence threw a gem in front of a packed crowd Saturday afternoon at Nancy Bottge Field. (Florida Tech image)

Pence, a right-hander from Jacksonville, Fla. and Creekside High School, struck out 10 batters on only 50 pitches.

She fell behind in the count only once, never had a three-ball count and never allowed the ball to leave the infield in the dominating performance.

Val Silvestrini

Val Silvestrini

“It’s funny because the pitchers and catchers sat down last week to put together goals,” Pence said.

“One of our goals was to throw a perfect game. Obviously, that’s an outcome goal and you need to trust the process. For my very first game, I credit it all to God. The softball field is my mission field. To see God working through me and setting the tone for the whole season feels great. It’s great for the girls. To go into the season with a perfect game as a team is so great. I just feel so blessed to be part of this.”

Although she was pitching in her first-ever collegiate game, the psychology major remained focused on the task at hand.

Jessica Callahan

Jessica Callahan

“I really tried to focus today because I was nervous, pitching in my first college game and I didn’t know what to expect,” Pence said.

“I focused on myself, trusting the abilities God has given me, trusting that ultimately he’s going to be glorified, trusting my defense and the offense. They did a phenomenal job behind me.”

Ahead 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the offense sent 11 batters to the plate to score seven runs on five hits and three Fort Valley State errors. Junior transfer Elizabeth Eby came through with a big two-run triple down the right-field line to score sophomore Ashley Montion and freshman Jessica Callahan. A collision on a fly ball to center field allowed pinch runner and freshman Audrey Gangloff to score the 10th and final run of the game.

Elizabeth Eby

Elizabeth Eby

“It’s a great way to start the season,” head coach Val Silvestrini said. “The first couple of innings, I felt that we were a little nervous. We broke through in the fourth and did what we needed to do to win this game. It went so fast, I wasn’t expecting it to end in the fifth inning. I’m really proud of the team. This is the best way to set the tone for the season.”

Needless to say, Silvestrini was proud of Pence’s performance.

“She’s been doing great in practice and that’s where we evaluate our kids,” she said. “We thought she was the best pitcher to start this game. We gave her a chance and we’re really proud of her. I told her ‘if I was a pitcher, I would’ve loved if my first college game was a perfect game.’”

Audrey Gangloff

Audrey Gangloff

As she was pitching throughout the game, Pence said she never thought about not giving up a hit.

“No, I was just thinking about retiring the next batter,” she said. “We’ve worked a lot on mental training, taking one pitch at a time and one batter at a time. It doesn’t matter if we just struck out the side because we have a new inning. I never thought ‘Oh, they haven’t had a hit or wondered how many strikeouts do I have?’ I just thought of taking one pitch at a time and working, slowly.”

Ashley Montion

Ashley Montion

Moving forward, she already has a good idea about where she can go from here.

“We have to keep focusing on one pitch at a time and one game at a time,” Pence said. We have big goals. I know what it feels like to be part of a team that makes it to a really big goal. We need to stay humble and stay hungry, keep playing one game at a time and stay confident in the team.”

FIT and Fort Valley State will conclude their three-game series with a doubleheader on Sunday starting at 10 a.m. at Nancy Bottge Field.

Live audio and stats will be available for both games at FloridaTechSports.com/live.


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