Four-Run Third Inning Dooms Panthers In Series Opener, Loses 5-3 To Augusta
By Florida Tech // February 20, 2016
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Big innings have haunted Florida Tech in each of its losses this season, and Friday night proved no different. Keyed by a four-run third inning and a strong effort from its bullpen, Augusta fended off the Panthers 5-3 in the series opener at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
“We have to do a better job of minimizing the big inning,” said head coach Greg Berkemeier.
“That right there has kind of killed us here recently. They strung together some hits, found some holes, but we have to do a better job. You do that and you’re going to get a better result.”
Starter Ty Cohen was chased in the sixth inning after allowing nine hits and a season-high four earned runs, while Florida Tech recorded just two hits in the final five innings en route to its third defeat in four tries.
The Panther offense did start strong, though, putting the lead-off batter on base in each of the first four innings of the contest.
Daniel Szpik sparked the offense with a liner up the middle to open the top of the second.
Ryan Sinzenich then followed with a single of his own on the very next pitch to put two runners aboard with nobody out. Augusta’s Tristan Jones appeared to have escaped the jam, but a skied pop fly off the bat of John Sprowls was misplayed by the Jaguar’s shortstop and allowed Szpik to tally the first run of the ball game.
Florida Tech’s early lead didn’t last very long, however. Following a pair of singles, Augusta’s Nick Rau dropped a blooper into center to even the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the third.
The Jaguars added one more run before a deep drive over the head of centerfielder James Gronberg extended the advantage to 4-1.
Showing some resiliency, the Panthers quickly halted the momentum by answering with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. Szpik was the catalyst yet again after lacing a triple off the base of the wall, and soon crossed home plate on an RBI groundout by Sinzenich.
Two batters later, Kevin Capella kept the inning alive with a scorcher down the left field line and narrowed the gap to 4-3 thanks to a clutch two-out knock by Sprowls.
The Jaguars threatened in the home half of the fifth with two runners in scoring position and only one out. Yet, Cohen picked up one of his seven strikeouts on the night and then induced a weak dribbler to shortstop to keep the Panthers within a run.
Florida Tech had no answer for Augusta’s bullpen, though. Relievers Joey Stilwell and Frank Warren surrendered only one hit in a combined three innings of work to preserve the ‘W’ for starting pitcher Tristan Jones, who improved to 3-0 on the year.
John Sternagel notched two more hits Friday, and has now recorded six multi-hit efforts in Florida Tech’s first 10 games.
The Panthers finished 1-for-9 as a team with runners in scoring position in the loss.
“We didn’t have as good of at-bats as I’d like to see there towards the end of the game, but overall I felt like we played pretty well,” said Berkemeier.
“We just have to keep coming. We have an opportunity tomorrow and have to find a way to win.”
FIT and Augusta will conclude the three-game series Saturday with game one of the day’s doubleheader beginning at noon.
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