Defense carries the day as Hawks reach Class 7A regional softball semifinals
Viera's Haley Hinz beats the throw to the plate to score the game's first run the bottom of the first inning in a Class 7A regional quarterfinal against New Smyrna Beach. Viera won 6-0.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
On nights when your offense isn’t its usual peppy self, it’s good to know you have the defense – and the pitcher – to get things done.
That was the case for the Viera High Hawks Wednesday night in the Class 7A regional quarterfinals against New Smyrna Beach.
Despite being held to just four hits, the Hawks played brilliant defense and got yet another strong effort on the mound from Kiana East on the way to a 6-0 victory at Viera Regional Park.
Viera (25-1) will travel to Deltona High on Tuesday for the regional semifinals.
Though the Hawks didn’t have a lot of hits against New Smyrna Beach pitcher Cheyenne Duke, they did make them count. Kaitlyn Jensen hit a two-run home run – a ball that easily cleared the center field fence for her 17th homer of the season – while East had a triple and Haley Hinz added a double.
But make no mistake about it, the story of this game was Viera’s defense.
“Our defense really killed it tonight,” East said. “Anything they hit, our defense stopped. They really backed me up. I didn’t feel as much pressure as a pitcher because I knew my defense was there.”
From shortstop Sydney Brooks’ diving catch in the first inning, to a nice play by Jensen at third, fielding a bunt and throwing out the lead runner at third, the Hawks made big plays all night.
One of the biggest came in the third inning, when Hinz threw a bullet from center field to catcher Aly Loyd to nail a New Smyrna Beach runner at the plate.
East, who would strike out five on the night while improving her pitching record to 21-1, was able to pitch with a lead all night thanks to a three-run Viera first inning.
An East sacrifice fly scored Hinz with the first run, and after Kaitlyn Jensen walked, Kelly Bishop drove a ball deep to center field that was dropped. Jensen scored to make it 2-0 with Bishop winding up at second base.
Madison Headley then laid down a bunt and was able to beat the throw to first as an aggressive Bishop was able to come around to score.
After giving up the three runs, however, Duke settled down and kept the Hawks off balance.
The turning point in the game was clearly the top of the fourth inning when the Barracudas got a single, a walk and another single to load the bases with no outs.
However, East came back to get a strikeout and a pair of weak ground balls to get out of the inning without giving up any runs and maintaining Viera’s 3-0 lead.
“Kiana, she’s our back,” Jensen said. “She never lets us down. She always pitches a great game.”
Finally, in the bottom of the fifth, the Hawks were able to put together some more offense. Hinz lead off with a double and was sacrificed to third by Brooks.
East then followed with a triple to right field to score Hinz to make it 4-0. After pitching around Jensen for much of the night, the Barracudas decided to pitch to Viera’s junior power hitter … and boy, did they pay for it.
Jensen's home run made it 6-0.
The rest was up to East, who also had five put outs from her pitching position.
“Kiana pitched well,” Hawks coach Dale Pierce said. “We threw (in) on the hands a lot tonight. We got a lot of bleeders. They weren’t getting extended on her at all.”
It was the fourth shutout in a row for the Hawks, who continue to push toward what they hope will be a trip to Dodgertown for the state final four.
“We didn’t play our best, but we had some of those timely hits, which helped us win,” Jensen said. “… Defense always has your back.”