Viera rallies past Pine Ridge to advance in state baseball playoffs


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Viera High's Jordan Allen struck out four in 2 1/3 innings of relief to earn the victory against Pine Ridge in the Class 7A quarterfinals on Tuesday at the USSSA Space Coast Complex..

VIERA VOICE Jeff Navin

Confidence is a wonderful trait when it comes to the postseason in high school baseball. Just ask Viera coach Bob Doty.

His Hawks found themselves trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning after Pine Ridge of Deltona broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the top half of the fifth. What words of wisdom did Doty impart to his senior-laden squad?

“I didn’t say much of anything,” said Doty, whose squad scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the bottom of the sixth to come away with a 10-5 victory in the Class 7A regional quarterfinals at Space Coast Stadium in the United States Specialty Sports Association Complex.

“The older guys know how to win; I have a special group of older guys. The team plays well together and they have good chemistry.”

Luke Brown, the No. 9 hitter, led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to center field off Pine Ridge pitcher Gabriel Ramos. Jordan Allen reached on a walk, and Connor Leary lined a double to the corner in right field as Brown came around to score and Allen held at third base.

Andrew Brait tripled to right field to give the Hawks a 5-4 advantage as Allen and Leary came around to score. Jordan Kaplan and Declan McDermott followed with run-scoring triples, also to right field, as Viera extended its lead to 7-4 in an unlikely manner. Each of the three consecutive triples were hit by right-handed batters to the opposite field.

“The triples broke a team record,’’ Doty said. “We had 12 coming in and now we have 15. We like to hit them in that right-center field gap.’’

Carson Janssen followed with a single to left field to drive in pinch-runner J.T. Smith, ending the night for Ramos as Pine Ridge had yet to record an out during the offensive onslaught.

“All year long, we don’t panic,’’ Doty said. “At home, we know that we’ll get the last at-bat.’’

The Panthers, the runner-up to New Smyrna Beach in Class 7A, District 5, had taken a 4-2 lead in the top of the fifth as Iskyam Pascual led off with a walk. Jeremy Lopez entered the game as a courtesy runner for the catcher, but he was thrown out at the plate after Brian Berrios hit a double off the wall in center field.

Allen fielded the ball off the wall, threw the ball to the second baseman Leary who was the cutoff man, and Leary’s strike to the catcher McDermott nailed Lopez at home plate.

Kaplan struck out Xavier Rosado, but Gabriel Ramos followed with a single to center to drive in Berrios. Courtesy runner Gabriel Pellot then stole second base.

Brenden Mora hit a short tapper in front of home plate. Kaplan came off the mound quickly to field the ball, but he hurried his hard throw to first base as it sailed past Billy Moser for an error as Pellot came around to score.

Doty removed Kaplan from the mound as he switched positions with Allen in center field. After hitting Chris Ramos with a pitch, Allen struck out Tyler Gregory to end the inning.

“Kap really didn’t want to come out,’’ Doty said. “He still felt strong. I know he was really angry with me. But knowing the competitor that he is, I knew it wouldn’t bother him for long. That’s what I like about him; it’s all business for him.’’

Besides the run-scoring triple in the bottom half of the inning, Kaplan drove in his third run of the night on a liner that Berrios somehow came up with at third base to throw Kaplan out at first as Leary scored on the play.

With one out, Leary walked and Brait singled to left field. They both moved up a base on a wild pitch. After Kaplan’s run-scoring grounder, Janssen followed with a run-scoring single to center field to give Viera a commanding 10-5 advantage.

The Hawks won their ninth in a row to improve to 20-7. Viera will face Melbourne Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in the regional semifinals. It will be a rematch of the Class 7A, District 6 championship game. Viera defeated Melbourne 6-5 in that game after ousting Sebastian River 2-0 in the semifinals.

Melbourne defeated New Smyrna Beach 5-2 Tuesday on the road to set up the rematch.

In the other Region 2 games, Winter Haven eliminated Gaither 2-0 and Tampa Leto ousted Lake Gibson 4-2. Winter Haven and Leto will play Tuesday, with the winner of that game to face the winner of the Melbourne-Viera game on May 22. The winner of that contest will earn a berth in the Class 7A Final Four, which will be played May 30-31 in Fort Myers.

Pine Ridge, which finished its season with a 15-14 record, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Berrios doubled to left-center field with two outs and scored on Xavier Rosado’s double off the wall in center field.

The Panthers extended their lead to 2-0 as Kaplan hit Pascual with a pitch, courtesy runner Lopez advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Berrios’ single to left field.

“Pine Ridge came at us -- they came at us hard,’’ Doty said. “Their No. 3 and 4 hitters (Berrios and Rosado) were really good. We had the scouting report, but you don’t know how good they are until you see them.’’

Viera tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the third. Moser led off with a walk and, one out later, Allen walked.  Leary singled off the wall in right field to load the bases as the runners were forced to hold as right fielder Chris Ramos almost made the catch as he fought the wind.

Brait hit a hard grounder to shortstop as Moser scored and Allen was forced at third base. Kaplan followed with a double to left field to drive in Leary and tie game at 2.

Leary, Brait, Kaplan and McDermott each had two hits for the Hawks. Allen struck out four batters in 2 1/3 innings of relief to earn the victory.