Florida Tech Avoids Getting Swept, Splits Doubleheader
By Zach Clark // March 15, 2015
'disappointing not to win the series'
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In an up-and-down afternoon at Thomas B. Southard Stadium, the 11th-ranked Florida Tech Panthers split Saturday’s doubleheader with No. 25 Saint Leo to stave off the perennial series sweep.
A pair of eighth-inning home runs doomed the Panthers in the finale, but would not outshine the season-best performance from senior lefty Scotty Ward in Florida Tech’s 9-0 victory in the first game of the day.
Improving to 6-0 on the year, Ward tossed only 99 pitches on his way to a dazzling complete game five-hit shutout.
Coming one night after the Lions put 15 runs on the board, the Port Orange, Florida native retired the leadoff batter in all nine innings and struck out seven, permitting just a measly five singles.
“Scotty did a great job for us,” said head coach Greg Berkemeier.
“He went out there and really executed down in the zone all day. We needed a big start out of him, and we got it. A complete game shutout is not an easy thing to do in this league, and he gave us one in a very important game.”
The Panther offense was no slouch either, as they notched 16 hits in the win, including four from catcher Austin Allen.
Allen set the tone from the very beginning, mashing a two-run bomb over the batter’s eye in center to give Florida Tech a 2-0 advantage just three batters into the ballgame.
Collecting his seventh home run of the year, Allen has already matched his output from the entire 2014 season.
Later in the inning, David Wilson tagged a two-out two-run single to left center to extend the lead to 4-0, giving Ward all the run support he’d need. Wilson had himself an enormous day at the plate, combining to go 5-of-9 in the doubleheader with a home run and four RBIs.
“He (Allen) changes the dynamic of the lineup,” said Berkemeier when asked about the offensive production.
“He’s a good hitter, and it’s always a plus to have him in there. But I thought we did a good job swinging the bat up and down. I thought Wilson was outstanding for us all weekend. He had some tremendous at-bats, along with Reid Neal and (John) Sprowls.”
Florida Tech got off to yet another hot start in game two when third baseman Ricky Rodriguez laced a first-pitch fastball into right field to drive in Grant McKown, giving the Panthers the early 1-0 lead.
Kevin Wortman’s bases loaded walk in the third brought in Sprowls after he led off with a double off the base of the wall in left center. The Panthers stretched their edge to 2-0, but would strand a trio of runners to end the frame.
A recurring theme in the series capper, Florida Tech left the bases loaded on three separate occasions and stranded a total of 12 runners.
Trailing 7-3 in the top of the eighth, the Panthers cut the deficit to one after Rodriguez was plunked by Saint Leo reliever Dan Twitty.
However, that was as close as they’d get as the Lions launched a pair of back-breaking homers in the home half of the inning, sending FIT to a 12-6 loss.
Making only his fourth and fifth career starts at second base, Sprowls rounded out the afternoon 4-for-9 with a pair of RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
“I wish we could’ve figured out a way to get that second one,” said Berkemeier.
“It’s disappointing not to win the series, but we just have to get ourselves refocused and get back at it this week.”
FIT will look to regroup on Thursday in a neutral site contest against Caldwell in West Palm Beach, Florida.