Viera baseball motivated for another final four run

After not being able to hold a 2-0 lead in the regional final at Leto last season, Viera's seniors are highly motivated to get another shot at reaching the final four.

They talked about it on the first day of practice.

They were so close … six outs away from a trip to the final four before it all fell apart.

But while the pain of losing in last season’s regional final still lingers for the Viera High School baseball team, the Hawks aren’t wallowing in it. They’re using it as motivation.

"I think the guys know how it felt. I know how it felt," senior catcher Alan Espinal said. "We do not want to go through that again. It was pretty bad. It wasn’t sad because it’s baseball. Things like that happen.

"But it hurts. We were so close, up by two, and then it got out of our hands. I think we’ve matured from that standpoint and we’re going to be better."

With 11 seniors on the roster, the Hawks should not be lacking for leadership this season.

Bammer Brait and Connor Leary, who manned the middle infield for the Hawks for four years, have graduated and will be tough to replace.

But Viera could have another solid combo up the middle with sophomore Edian Espinal at shortstop and freshman Alex Sosa at second. Junior Ben Schleeper likely will see time at shortstop early in the season while Edian Espinal recovers from an injury.

Junior Liam Samuels will man first base with help from senior David Rusnak and senior Zach Taylor.

Viera’s outfield already was solid with seniors Declan McDermott in left, J.T. Smith in center and junior Jacob Vermeire in right. The group has benefited greatly from working with new assistant coach Edwin Jimenez.

"I’ve noticed the three weeks we’ve had Coach Edwin here, our routes (to the ball), our arms have dramatically increased, just like that," McDermott said. "We were good before, but now … he’s so good. The footwork he’s teaching us to do, it helps us so much."

On the mound, Viera will be led by seniors Tyler Madl, Billy Moser and Jake Moldrem. Senior Ethan Huffman might have the best velocity on the team and seniors Rusnak and Hunter Longtin, along with Samuels, also should see action.

"We’ve got a lot of experience back," Viera coach Bob Doty said. "A lot of innings pitched back. The last couple of years, we’ve always gotten guys to throw strikes, keep the ball down, get us some ground balls and let us pick it up in the field."

With a challenging schedule, the Hawks will certainly be tested. But Doty believes this is a team that can compete at a high level.

"We’re really motivated," McDermott said. "We’re all just ready to get this thing started and see how far we can go."