Sheer’s walk-off hit puts VSLL into title game


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Viera Voice courtesy of VSLL

You like drama? Then grab a bag of popcorn, and pull up a chair.

This is the story of 12 young baseball players, three coaches and roughly 80 fans who will all remember what happened on Monday, Aug. 4 in Greenville, S.C. … no matter what happens in today’s Junior League Southeast Region final.

Trailing 7-3 going into the bottom of the fifth inning of the semifinals, the Viera/Suntree Little League All-Stars rallied to beat Virginia 9-8 on Conner Sheer’s walk-off drive that bounced off the left-center field fence.

Viera/Suntree will face North Carolina today at 3 p.m. in the championship game of the Southeastern Regional. The winner will get a trip to Taylor, Mich. for the Junior League World Series.

“This team just does not quit,” VSLL coach Gary Doane said. “They find a way to win. They find a way to put themselves back in the ballgame.

“And everybody on this team contributes in one way or another.”

Monday’s game saw Virginia take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, only to have Viera/Suntree answer with three runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI double by JT Santos, an RBI single by Sheer and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Kyler Doane.

It was 3-1 VSLL until the top of the fourth, when Virginia scored six runs to take a commanding lead. In that inning, Sheer came on in relief of Santos to retire the side and would pitch the rest of the way.

Viera/Suntree would score twice in the bottom of the fifth on the strength of a single by Andrew Brait, a double by Mason Behrens and a single by Sheer to make it a 7-5 game.

Virginia would score another run in the top of the sixth to extend its lead to three, but the VSLL would bounce back with a run of its own when Kyler Doane led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and scored on a one-out double by Brait.

Trailing 8-6, the VSLL had one last shot in the bottom of the seventh.

Santos and Sheer opened the inning with back-to-back singles. One out later, Kyler Doane singled home Santos with Sheer advancing to third. A sacrifice fly by Jordan Allen tied the game at 8-8 and sent the game into extra innings.

Sheer would set Virginia down on two groundouts and a pop-up – all to Brait at shortstop – and set up the dramatic finish.

Behrens singled with one out in the eighth and advanced to second on a ground ball out by Jackson Taylor. Santos then singled to put runners at first and third and Sheer drilled the first pitch he saw roughly 320 feet, off the fence, to score Behrens with the winning run.

Sheer, who went 4-for-5 with three RBIs at the plate, was the winning pitcher. He went five innings in relief, allowing one run on three hits while striking out four. Santos had three hits while Behrens and Kyler Doane each had two.

Brait had several clutch hits and played excellent defense at short, while Allen made a number of excellent plays in center field.

Eric Adler will get the start today for Viera/Suntree against North Carolina, which won an earlier matchup between the two teams 9-2 during pool play.

With roughly 80 fans, some coming from as far away as North Carolina and Ohio to root for the VSLL, the players along with manager Jason Allen and coaches Brandon Taylor and Gary Doane, should have plenty of vocal support as they try to go 15-1 in All-Star play this summer.

NOTE: If you would be interested in helping the families of the VSLL Juniors offset the cost of spending five days in Fort Lauderdale for the state tournament and six days in Greenville, S.C. for the Southeast Region, a website has been set up at www.gofundme.com/cio3ew.

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