Strong Pitching, Great Hitting Help No. 25 Florida Tech Cruise On Opening Day
By Florida Tech // January 30, 2016
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA– Although opening the season against a league opponent isn’t ideal, capturing a victory in the process isn’t something to be upset about.
Behind a strong six-inning outing on the mound from Ty Cohen and a late two-run home run by Reid Neal, 25th-ranked Florida Tech secured a sound 6-1 win over Sunshine State Conference rival Rollins in its 2016 debut Friday night.
Cohen cruised early by retiring the first six batters he faced and eventually finished with five strikeouts, while scattering four hits to go with one earned run allowed on a sacrifice fly in the third inning.
Offensively, Neal, named an NCBWA Division II Preseason All-South Region Second Team selection just two days prior, paced three Panthers with multi-hit efforts. He went 2-for-4 with three runs batted in and two runs scored in the ‘W’.
In addition, University of Florida transfer John Sternagel pieced together a 2-for-4 performance with an RBI of his own in his first start for Florida Tech.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the top of the first thanks to a bit of small ball. Following a lead-off walk, Neal stole second following a handful of pick-off attempts. Just pitches later, he then swiped third and trotted home on an errant throw to put the visitors up 1-0 just minutes into the season.
Two innings later, the Florida Tech offense was back at it again. John Sprowls tallied the first hit of the evening on a single into right center, soon advanced 90 feet on the second Rollins’ error of the ballgame, and was eventually driven in on a liner up the middle by Grant McKown.
The ensuing at-bat, Sternagel joined in on the action and plated McKown from second to collect his first career hit and RBI in Crimson and Gray.
A Tars’ sacrifice fly cut into the deficit in the home half of the frame.
Reid Neal quickly got that run back for the Panthers, though, with a two-out RBI double to make it 4-1 in the top of the fourth.
Rollins posed multiple threats in the bottom of the same inning. However, the scoring chances were erased by a Taylor-made 3-6-3 double play and a David Wilson outfield assist after he gunned the runner down on a would-be double.
Cohen’s night was complete after the sixth as head coach handed the ball to starter-turned-reliever Grant Willcoxon.
The junior fell behind in a 3-0 count with two outs and a runner on, yet battled back to record the strikeout to keep the margin deadlocked at 4-1.
Out of the bullpen, Willcoxon recorded four strikeouts in three innings of work to notch his first career save.
Minus Neal’s deep shot in the ninth, the Panthers had considerable trouble solving Rollins’ 6-foot-7 arm Brad Case. The freshman faced the minimum in the first three of four innings in relief.
The Florida Tech coaching staff made the run game a focal point in the season opener. The Panthers collected four stolen bases in the victory, a total that took four games to accumulate a year ago.
The Panthers will look to capture their first series win of the year when they face off with the Tars, yet again, in a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.
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