Hawks have talent to get to state final four


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Viera High softball senior captains Stephanie Vetrano, left, Aly Lloyd, Haley Hinz and Kaitlyn Jensen and junior captain Kelly Bishop have a lot of playoff experience after reaching the regional finals the past two years.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

The Viera High girls softball team is loaded … again.

And just like the past two seasons, when the Hawks got as far as the regional finals, they have their eyes on getting to the state final four for the first time in school history.

“It would be nice to be able to make it to states this year,” senior center fielder Haley Hinz said.  “If we all work together, we’ll be able to. (We) just have each other’s back and (have to) be able to make the plays.”

While the Hawks graduated two key players from last year’s team — pitcher Kiana East and shortstop Sydney Brooks — they have a roster chock full of playoff-experienced returners.

Third baseman Kaitlyn Jensen, who hit 17 of Viera’s incredible 32 home runs last season, is back at third base with her younger sister, Taylor Jensen, taking over at shortstop. Kelly Bishop returns at second base with Carly Kish moving into the lineup at first base.

Hinz will be bookended by Zoe Hatley in right field and slap-hitting Madison Headley in left.

Aly Lloyd is back behind the plate and Viera’s new No. 1 pitcher will be sophomore Corrin Flajole with help from freshman Karyana Mitchell.

The Hawks also have two solid bench players in sophomores Olivia Nimmo and Briana Hatley, who should benefit from the chance to get some playing time as well as learn from the veterans.

“We have seven seniors this year, so that’s a lot of leadership on the team,” Jensen said. “Just having older people, and all of us being together, will definitely help us have a solid year.”

Viera coach Dale Pierce isn’t sure the Hawks will hit 32 home runs again this season, but he knows his offense has a chance to be special once again because of its overall depth.

“I’m solid one through nine,” Pierce said. “You pitch around Kaitlyn and you’re going to be looking at Taylor Jensen coming up. You’re going to be looking at Kelly Bishop. And you’re going to be looking at Carly Kish. Any one of them can hit it out of the ballpark.”

One of the big keys, of course, will be how well Flajole will be able to handle the No. 1 pitching role.

Pierce didn’t sound like someone who was too worried about that.

“A lot of pitchers will say they’ve got five pitches,” the Hawks coach said. “She’s got at least five or six and she can throw every one of them pretty decent. She doesn’t have a lot of power, but if she can get that first strike, you’d better hang on because you never know which way it’s going to go.

“She’s going to be good.