Hawks top Deltona in wild finish, advance to Class 7A regional softball semis
Viera wins 4-3 in game played at EFSC
So Hawks really do fly ... Viera's Taylor Jensen soars toward home plate with the go-ahead run in Wednesday night's Class 7A regional quarterfinals. Viera held on to win the game 4-3 in a wild finish to reach the regional semifinals.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
Morgan Mordas couldn’t help but smile.
“We thought we’d make it interesting a little bit … just a little interesting,” the Viera High sophomore third baseman laughed.
Oh, it was one of those moments, all right. The kind where it would have been fun to have a blood pressure monitor on everyone in the stands, and on the field at Eastern Florida State College’s softball stadium Wednesday night just to see the what the numbers looked like.
But the only numbers that really mattered were the ones on the scoreboard … oh wait, it wasn’t working.
OK, the only really numbers that mattered were the final score of the Class 7A regional quarterfinal when it was all over.
Viera 4, Deltona 3.
Trailing 2-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Hawks scored three runs on RBI singles by Mordas and Anna Brait and a Deltona throwing error.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Deltona put together three consecutive singles, the last of which set off a string of plays that would decide the game.
Viera’s throw home was wild, allowing Deltona to score a run. Viera catcher Taylor Jensen then threw to first base to try to catch the runner who had taken a big turn and was trying to scramble back. As the umpire was calling the baserunner safe, the Deltona runner on second base broke for third.
Viera first baseman Hailey Mix then threw across the diamond to Mordas, who tagged the runner out to end the game.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” Mordas said. “If that was the first tournament of the year, that would have went a whole different direction. That would have went everywhere.
“We’ve progressed and we’ve come together. We have a whole lot of young people and we’re bonding really well this year. We’re coming together really well.”
The Hawks (19-7), who have made it their goal to get back to the final four and get another crack at winning a state championship, are now in the regional semifinals on Tuesday against all too familiar opponent.
Melbourne (23-5) went on the road and defeated Matanzas 6-0 to set up a rematch of the District 6 final, only this time with even bigger stakes.
Viera is once again expected to send Karyana Mitchell to the mound. The junior pitcher has come up big for the Hawks repeatedly this season, both on the mound and at the plate.
In addition to holding off Deltona’s batters Wednesday night, Mitchell was also 2-for-4 at the plate and scored the game-tying run.
“That game, without Kary on the mound, it’s not possible,” Viera coach Alex Breeden said. “She did not have her best stuff by any means tonight, but the best pitchers, the best players … when they don’t have their best, they still find a way to get it done.
“She competed her (butt) off. She made some plays on ground balls, on bunts that, if she doesn’t make them, we don’t win the game. … She’s the heart and soul of this team. She’s a stud.”
Mitchell, who made a number of defensive plays from the mound and also legged out a bunt single, said the Hawks know that in order to get to the state championship game, they’re going to have to ride a rollercoaster of emotions and that they’re ready for it.
That’s why they were able to stay calm despite everything that happened in that seventh inning.
“We try our best to stay composed in the chaos and get the out,” she said. “We knew we had two outs. We just stayed calm. … We knew we had each other’s backs.”
Mitchell, who admitted she wasn’t at her best when the game started, was touched up for a run in the top of the first but avoided further damage when a Deltona runner was thrown out at the plate.
Viera would later tie the score only to have its own potential go-ahead runner thrown out at home. After the Wolves took a 2-1 lead, the Hawks found themselves with several scoring opportunities, but could not come up with the big hit when they needed it against a Deltona team that used three different pitchers.
That changed in the bottom of the sixth.
Freshman Jaydin Gentile drew a lead-off walk, but was forced out at second on a hard-hit ball by Mitchell, who was safe at first. With two outs, Jensen singled down the third base line to put runners at first and second.
A single to right by Mordas tied the game at 2-2. Brait then hit a ball that went off the center fielder’s glove. Jensen scored and Mordas went to third before scoring on the throwing error.
Breeden reiterated what Mordas said, that if this had happened earlier in the season, the Hawks likely wouldn’t have come through. Wednesday night’s game was just another example of how far this team has progressed while playing a challenging schedule.
“We stepped into the moment,” she said. “Each and every one of them grew up this game. At the beginning of the year, it’s a completely different team, it’s a completely different ending.
“I keep saying it, but we’re a train in motion. We’re peaking at the right time.”
What the Hawks aren’t likely to do is play their regional semifinal at the USSSA Space Coast Complex field they have called home for the past two seasons.
Deltona reportedly did not want to play on the turf field at the USSSA Complex and the FHSAA acquiesced, which is why the game was moved to Eastern Florida State College. It’s extremely likely Melbourne will protest having to play on the turf as well.
Which means for the second straight playoff game, the Hawks – who earned the right to play at home by winning the district championship – will have to play somewhere else, most likely Viera Regional Park, or perhaps EFSC again.
“We had some adversity this game that we didn’t anticipate,” Breeden said. “It happened the day before. It’s been an issue all year with the turf and teams not wanting to play on that field.
“It’s an opportunity (to play on that USSSA field) that we were granted, so we’d be a fool to say no to it. Continually, our girls are getting that opportunity thrown in their face. It’s not fair.
“We told them yesterday that what’s happening to them is not fair, but you have to control what you can control. They can’t control that. They can control how they reacted to it. They reacted with maturity beyond any high school player. … (But) sooner or later, somebody’s going to have to back us up.”