Hawks come up short in district title game, eye another Melbourne matchup


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Viera catcher Alan Espinal makes a strong throw to second base for an out during Thursday night's Class 7A, District 6 championship game at the USSSA Space Coast Complex. The Hawks had their streak of three straight district titles stopped as Melbourne won the game 4--0.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

As far as the Viera Hawks baseball team was concerned, Thursday night’s 4-0 loss to Melbourne in the Class 7A, District 6 championship game wasn’t the time to say goodbye to their rivals.

No, the Hawks were thinking about the possibility of meeting the Bulldogs again.

Actually, it was more like … we will meet again.

That could come in the regional semifinals, should both teams manage to get through the quarterfinals which are set for Wednesday.

Viera (19-8) will travel to play District 5 champion Pine Ridge (13-6-1) while Melbourne (19-7) hosts New Smyrna Beach (12-11).

While nothing is a given, of course, there’s no doubt another matchup between the Hawks and Bulldogs would be must-see high school baseball.

Thursday night’s game featured some strong pitching and excellent defense from Melbourne. The Hawks, meanwhile, got a strong effort on the mound from Eric Allen, Tyler Madl and Bill Moser, but made some defensive miscues that helped lead to all four Melbourne runs.

The Bulldogs’ victory ended a streak of three straight district championships for Viera, which will now have to leave the USSSA Space Coast Complex in order to pursue a deep run in the state playoffs.

“After practice (Wednesday night), we talked about the importance of this game and winning and staying here, because we’re really good here,” Viera coach Bob Doty said. “They were just better tonight. Now, we’re going to have to do it the hard way.

“But sometimes, the hard way is the best way to get you where you want to get, which is the final four.”

Viera’s offense simply couldn’t get going against Melbourne Thursday night. The Hawks consistently put the ball in play, but often that ball went right to a Melbourne defender. And with the Bulldogs playing flawless defense, there weren’t any openings

Connor Leary and Brady Jansen had the only two hits for Viera.

Allen, making his first start in eight weeks, combined with Tyler Madl and Moser – who got the last couple of outs – to hold the Bulldogs to just four hits.

Viera mishandled a pickoff attempt in the first inning and made two errors on throws to first base that helped Melbourne take advantage and get on the board.

Finishing as the district runner up didn’t set well with the Hawks, who walked away from their postgame team meeting with the trophy still sitting on the turf.

“It just wasn’t our night,” Doty said. “We played hard. I told the guys, ‘I’m proud of you. Now, it’s our turn to win on the road.’ I’ve got two senior starter captains (Leary and Andrew “Bammer” Brait) … this would have been their fourth year as district champions.

“Maybe this is a sign. We’ve not played well on the road. We’re 4-5 on the road. But we’re going to have to win on the road to get back to Melbourne. By the way, they’re an outstanding club.”

But that doesn’t mean the Hawks would love another chance to play them.