VSLL Juniors win state, head to regionals
The Viera/Suntree Little League Junior All-Stars are still on a roll.
Next stop: Greenville, S.C. and the Southeast Regional tournament, which begins Friday.
The VSLL, fresh off winning the state championship, will represent the state of Florida in a game against West Virginia, and then come back on Saturday, Aug. 2, to face North Carolina. Both games are at 9 a.m. On Sunday, it will be Florida vs. Georgia at noon in the final game of Pool B play.
The top two teams in Pool A – which consists of Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee – and Pool B will advance to the semifinals with the championship game set for Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 3 p.m.
Regional champions will meet in Taylor, Mich. for the Juniors League Baseball World Series, which takes place Aug. 10-16.
Winning the Florida state title last week in Fort Lauderdale took a dominating pitching effort, some brilliant defense and timely hitting – which is exactly where this VSLL team excels.
An 18-8 opening round win over Buckingham (Fort Myers) was highlighted by a strong middle relief pitching effort by Mason Behrens and a 4-for-4 hitting performance by Kyler Doane.
Rain delayed the start of the second-round game until 10 p.m. and the VSLL defeated Belmont Heights (Tampa) 6-3 thanks to four solid innings from Eric Adler and some excellent work behind the plate from catcher BJ Lanza. Logan Plante and Behrens also had key hits in that game.
The win put the VSLL into the semifinals, where it faced Union Park (Orlando). Ace pitcher Connor Sheer went 6 2/3 innings in an 11-3 victory.
JT Santos, Plante, Allen and Adler all had big hits in that game, but as was the case throughout the tournament, the team got big contributions from Andrew Brait, Jackson Taylor, Connor Leary, Michael Buccieri and Carson Warrix as well.
The championship game brought a matchup with North Springs (Fort Lauderdale) which had apparently scouted the VSLL semifinal and was quite confident with Sheer out of the way. In fact, VSLL player agent Ken O’Neill said the North Springs players were chanting “Greenville!” during warmups.
Then Santos took the mound … and promptly threw a complete game, two-hit shutout as the VSLL took the state championship 4-0.
Taylor had two hits and three RBIs in the title game. Santos and Lanza also had key hits and Plante, Allen and Adler played exceptional defense in the outfield. In fact, the team committed only three errors in the entire tournament.
“The key thing for them is they’re having fun,” O’Neill said. “That’s what they’re focusing on – having fun. Baseball comes naturally to them.”
Visit the VieraToday blog for updates on the VSLL team throughout the Southeast Regional tournament.
NOTE: The VSLL team is looking for donations to help fund its trip to the Southeast Regional. Anyone interested can contact VSLL Player Agent Ken O'Neill at 321-480-0427.