MELBOURNE, Fla. – In the opening game of their Sunshine State Conference series against the Florida Tech Panthers (22-14, 9-4 SSC), the Saint Leo softball team (27-13, 7-3 SSC) defeated the Panthers by a score of 5-2, Thursday afternoon from Nancy Bottge Field. After collecting the Sunshine State Conference Pitcher of the Week honor on Monday, freshman hurler Alana Tabel also collected the win in Thursday's contest to snag her 11th win of the season.
In typical Saint Leo fashion, the Lions jumped on the scoreboard first, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning off of Florida Tech pitcher, Amanda Smith. It was junior Brittany Ewing who led off the inning with a one-out single to right field, and quickly advanced to second on a walk to junior Sarah Steiner. With two runners on, senior Rachelle Gremo also took first base on a walk, loading the bases before junior Chelsey Steedley ripped a single up the middle that scored Ewing to give the Lions a lead. One out later, with Victoria Obermeier pinch-running for Steiner, it was sophomore Angela Kafalas who came up big by blasting an infield single that ricocheted off of the Panthers' pitcher and scored both Obermeier and Gremo.
The Panthers were unable to answer back until the bottom of the third inning, when they scored one run off of a walk, a double, and a sacrifice flyout.
Saint Leo was able to tack on another run in the top of the 5th inning to again take a 3-run lead over the Panthers. Burns led off the inning with a bunt single, and was able to quickly steal second base. One out later, Steiner sent a double to the left-centerfield wall that advanced Burns to third base. On the next play, Gremo reached on a fielders' choice that allowed Burns to score and put the Lions up, 4-1.
The Lions added another run in the top of the 6th inning to continue their offensive attack. Junior Kylee Hardesty jump-started the inning with a single up the middle, just before freshman Tiffany Thompson took her place on first base as a pinch runner. One out later, sophomore Danielle Ferrara sacrifice bunted Thompson over to second base to give the Lions a runner in scoring position. A walk to Torrie Weindorf and a bunt single by Burns then loaded the bases, allowing Ewing to send a infield groundball to the Panthers' second baseman, who committed an error and allowed Thompson to score.
Threatened by Saint Leo's four-run lead, the Panthers collected a run in the bottom of the 6th inning, collecting one run thanks to Florida Tech singles from Elaine Brown and Lindsy Dugan.
Offensively, the Lions collected a total of nine hits in the contest, as well as four walks and two stolen bases.
Freshman Alana Tabel took the mound for the Lions in the win, tossing a complete seven-inning game to improve her record to 11-5 on the season. Although Tabel started off slowly by walking the first batter of the game, she eventually settled in and allowed just four Panther hits. Tabel struck out two in the effort.
The Lions continue Sunshine State Conference action tomorrow when they take on the Florida Tech Panthers from Nancy Bottge Field in Melbourne, Fla. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 1 p.m.
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