Hawks rally, book first trip to state softball final four
Mordas has big hit, Flajole solid on mound as Viera wins 4-2
Viera's Morgan Mordas (No. 58), Corrin Flajole (center) and Zoie Hatley celebrate moments after the Hawks beat Tampa Chamberlain 4-2 at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in the Class 7A Region 2 finals.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
Vero Beach … here come the Hawks.
Viera got a brilliant pitching performance from junior Corrin Flajole and freshman Morgan Mordas came up with the big hit in – what else – the sixth inning as the Hawks rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Tampa Chamberlain 4-2 Friday night in the Class 7A Region 2 final.
It will be the first trip to the state final four for Viera.
The Hawks (26-1) will play Niceville (21-6) at 1:35 p.m. in the state semifinals at Dodgertown in Vero Beach on Friday. The other semifinal will begin at 2:50 and feature Fort Myers (28-2) against Pembroke Pines Charter (24-5).
For first-year head coach Alex Breeden and the Hawks, Friday night’s win was the biggest in Viera softball history … and a moment they had been waiting for all season.
“When we came in … we’re not everyone’s taste,” Breeden said. “We’re loud, we’re in your face, my dad (Joe) and I. We asked them to buy in and work for us and if they did, something special was going to happen.
“The fact that they did, and that we’ve gotten a relationship with them where they trust us, it’s gotten us to this point. It’s incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
In their four previous trips to the regional finals, the Hawks had always been done in by one bad inning and uncharacteristic mistakes.
And for a while, it looked like that might be their undoing against Chamberlain, too.
The Chiefs (23-8) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a two-run double that was proceeded by a couple of walks.
Flajole came in with one out in the inning and proceeded to shut Chamberlain out the rest of the way, giving up only one hit in the seventh inning and overcoming a few defensive miscues and a tight strike zone.
“It was (all about) closing it out strong because it means so much to all of us,” Flajole said. “Coming out and throwing first-pitch strikes was the most important thing. It was hard in the beginning, but getting it done in the end was really rewarding.”
While Chamberlain was able to get runners on base – Flajole and starter Karyana Mitchell combined to walk eight after walking less than 20 batters all season – the Hawks were able to make the plays when they had to and keep the Chiefs from padding their lead.
Viera did get a run in the first inning when Madison Headley walked, stole second, went to third when a hard-hit ball by Zoie Hatley hit off the second baseman’s glove and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Jensen.
But inning after inning, the Hawks couldn’t get their offense going against Chamberlain starter Gabrielle Vallee.
Even when Viera did get a spark, like a lead-off bunt single in the fifth, things went against them when the runner was called out for leaving first base early in an attempt to steal second.
Everything was going against the Hawks, but yet they never lost faith.
“I think we were nervous, and after we got down, we were a little down on ourselves,” Mordas said. “But we usually come through and luckily, we did.”
Which brings us to the sixth inning.
In Viera’s 5-2 regional semifinal win over Deltona, the Hawks entered the top of the sixth inning having just fallen behind 2-1. Viera scored four times in that frame, three of them coming on a Mitchell home run.
So here we were again. Same score. Same inning.
“I called them in right before that,” Breeden said. “They all, to that point, realized that we should be scoring and were getting emotional with it.
“I just told them at that point, ‘emotion is what’s getting in our way. We know you all want it, but the team that wins is the one that’s going to be stoic and finds a way to put that behind them. And they did.”
Viera led off the bottom of the sixth inning with back-to-back walks by Jensen and Kelly Bishop. Brianna Hatley then tried to bunt them over, but was called out when it was ruled the ball hit her bat after she had left the batter’s box.
Chamberlain switched pitchers at that point and both runners would eventually move up a base on a wild pitch.
With one out, Mordas was faced with a 3-2 count. And in that big moment, she lined a single to center field, scoring Jensen and Bishop.
“I was just really hyped up because Bri got out,” Mordas said. “I wanted to help the team out. I knew this would be history if we made it. I was excited.”
After Flajole followed with a double, Mitchell came through with an RBI single to make it 4-2 to give the Hawks a two-run lead and build on the momentum Mordas created.
“(Morgan) has had some of the most clutch at-bats for us the entire year,” Breeden said. “Today, again, stepping in there … you wouldn’t know she’s a freshman by how she carries herself and how she performs, obviously. Incredible.”
As for Flajole, who struck out four and gave up just the one hit in 6 2/3 innings, Breeden went back to something she had previously told the junior.
“I’ve been telling her the past two or three games that the first inning, if something happens, you need to be ready,” Breeden said. “So warm up like you’re going in there. That’s tough. I mean, calling on a pitcher when they don’t think it’s going to be their game and having them step into that.
“She showed a lot. That’s all heart. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
And now the Hawks are going where no team in program history has ever gone before.
But that’s just part of the goal. There are still two more games to win.
“We’re just excited,” Flajole said. “This has been our goal all season, to go to states, and we’re finally here.
“We’ve got to work hard this next week to, hopefully, take it all.”