Ninth-Inning Heroics Lift Panther Baseball To Series Victory Over Rollins 4-3
By Florida Tech // February 1, 2016
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – If there’s one thing that can be taken away from the first weekend of the season, it’s that wins won’t come easily for opponents that have to face 25th-ranked Florida Tech.
The Panthers saw their ninth-inning rally fall just short in Saturday’s finale, but not before capturing the series win over Sunshine State Conference rival Rollins thanks to some early-season drama in game one of the day at Alfond Stadium.
Trailing 3-1 with two outs and only a runner on second base, Florida Tech mounted an incredible comeback facing Tars’ preseason all-region pitcher Matt Hendricks on the mound.
To begin the electrifying sequence of events, John Sternagel legged out an RBI triple to put himself 90 feet away from equaling the score.
Daniel Szpik, who was robbed of the game-tying RBI in last year’s season-ending defeat to Tampa, wasn’t going to be undone this time and in the next at-bat drew things even with a single into right field.
That brought up sophomore backstop Ryan Sinzenich, who jumped all over the Hendricks offering, and drove the ball deep into the right center gap to allow Szpik to race all the way around from first to give the Panthers their one and only lead of the contest.
Florida Tech’s six ninth-inning runs scored through the first three games have already matched the team’s total from a year ago.
Similar to Friday, the pitching staff appeared sharp in the victory.
In his Florida Tech debut, left-hander Tyler Deel surrendered a pair of runs in six innings to go along with two strikeouts. Drew Beyer’s initial welcome from the bullpen wasn’t as pleasant after he allowed a home run to the first batter he saw, but he settled in nicely to finish with five strikeouts over three innings of work to secure his second career win.
A key statistic that head coach Greg Berkemeier can definitely be pleased with is the combined goose egg in the walks column, rivaling his 2015 club that ranked among the nation’s top-10 in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Some more fresh faces got looks on the mound for the Panthers in the weekend capper.
Transfer Justus Labigang showed some strikeout ability with six K’s before being replaced after 4.2 innings of action. He was off the hook for the loss after the Panthers tied the score at 2-2 in top of the sixth following a Szpik two-out RBI double.
Florida Tech ran into some immediate trouble in the home half, though. A pair of singles off Ryan Allain, sandwiched by a throwing error on an attempted stolen base, instantly put the Tars back in front 3-2.
Two batters later, Rollins would add what proved to be a critical insurance run on a sacrifice fly into center.
The Panthers were sat down in order in the seventh and eighth, and had no choice but to once again hope for some ninth-inning magic.
Down to its final out, Alex Tonelli kept Florida Tech alive with an RBI single through the right side of the infield. Yet, this time the well had run dry as Rollins’ Brandon Burgess induced the groundout to prevent the sweep.
Strong starts by Sternagel and Reid Neal propelled the Florida Tech offense in the year’s opening series. Together, the two combined to hit 10-for-23 with five runs batted in and five extra-base hits.
The Panthers will be off during the week, but will return to action next Saturday in a neutral-site matchup against Wingate.