Hawks come up short in regional softball finals


Viera shortstop Sydney Brooks tags out a Lake Region baserunner at second during Friday night's Class 7A Regional final.


It was an emotional night for the Viera High softball team.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, those emotions were of sorrow, not joy.

Locked in a tight game with Lake Region, with a trip to the state final four on the line, Viera was betrayed by both its defense and its high-powered offense.

And as a result, it was Lake Region that came away with a 1-0 victory in the Class 7A regional final Friday night at Viera Regional Park.

“We made a few mistakes we haven’t made all year, and that’s what really bit us in the (backside),” Hawks coach Dale Pierce said.

Viera knew it was in for a challenge against Lake Region, which had won back-to-back games by a score of 1-0 in extra innings. Pitcher Mary Haff had not allowed a run in 18 consecutive innings of regional play.

But Viera’s Kiana East was enjoying a pretty special season, too. And on this night, she was brilliant.

East struck out eight and allowed five hits while shutting down a Lake Region offense that plenty of firepower.

“Oh god, she pitched a great game,” Pierce said of East. “Their No. 1 hitter (Jordan Barnes), we knew she controlled the game. Their last three games, if she got on base, she owned it.

“We kept her off (base). We kept their No. 2 (Destiny King) off (base). We kept their No. 3 (Alyssa Rivera) off (base). We did what we needed to do tonight. We just didn’t get enough offense and not quite enough defense out of it.”

The game essentially boiled down to the fourth inning.

East took a no-hitter into the inning, but gave up a pair of back-to-back singles. Lake Region then tried to bunt the runners over, but the throw to first pulled Viera first baseman Kim Sugarman off the bag and the bases were loaded with one out.

Lake Region’s Madison Johnson then battled East through a 16-pitch at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch. Finally, Johnson put the ball in play, and Viera could not field it cleanly, allowing a run to score.

To their credit, the Hawks were able to get out of the inning without allowing another run to score.

In the bottom of the inning, Kaitlyn Jensen lined a two-out single, Kelly Bishop (who had two hits) reached on an error and Madison Headley was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Viera with only one out.

Haff, however, got the next two Hawks looking at strike three to end the threat

Viera would not seriously challenge again, and the Hawks’ season was over.

It was the final game for Viera seniors East, Sugarman and Sydney Brooks. All three were big contributors to a team that finished the season 26-2 and won its first district title since 2011.

This was a special group that included, along with the three seniors, Kaitlyn Jenson, Bishop, Headley, Aly Loyd, Haley Hinz, Taylor Jensen, Zoe Haley, Corrin Flajole, Stephanie Vetrano, Carly Kish and Briana Barrios.

“It was a great season,” Pierce said. “I’ve got no regrets. It will be a long time before someone hits 29 home runs again in one year.

“I think we’ll come back strong next year. We’ll miss Kiana, but I think we’ll regroup and be ready to come back.”