Hawks fall to Melbourne in district softball title game

Viera junior Maddie Ford reacts after catching strike three on a Melbourne batter during Thursday night's Class 6A, District 11 championship game. Although it was a big play for the Hawks, the night would belong to the Bulldogs, who won the game 5-0.

The road back to the state softball semifinals just got a little tougher for the Viera Hawks.

Good thing for them, they’ve been there before.

Melbourne pitcher Jasmine “Jazzy” Francik was simply dominant Thursday night, throwing a one-hitter in a 5-0 win over Viera in the Class 6A, District 11 championship game.

It’s the second straight year the Hawks have lost the district final to their arch rivals.

Last year’s Viera team bounced back from that loss to eventually win the regional championship – beating Melbourne in the semifinals – on its way to the state final four.

Whether the Hawks can pull off another magical ride like that remains to be seen, but after losing only one senior off last year’s team, the players certainly know what it’s going to take to get it done.

The FHSAA rankings have not been updated since April 25, but Viera (12-9-1) was ranked No. 4 in Region 3 going into the district tournament. Melbourne (21-2-1) was No. 2 behind top-ranked Bartow (23-3). East Ridge (18-8) was ranked third.

If the rankings hold up, the Hawks could find themselves as the No. 5 seed and in a matchup with District 12 champion Seminole Ridge in the first round. Should that happen, it would be a rematch of last year’s regional quarterfinals that saw Viera win 3-0.

The Hawks will certainly have to play a cleaner game than they did Thursday night against Melbourne for their journey to continue. Viera’s scorebook had four of the Bulldogs five runs as unearned due to some defensive miscues.

Melbourne scored three runs in the second inning, then added single runs in the fourth and fifth on the way to the clear-cut victory.

Amaya Pitt had the only hit of the game for Viera.

“It’s a tough loss,” Viera coach Alex Breeden said. “We have a fun rivalry with Melbourne so it’s hard to say it doesn’t feel like a punch to the gut.

“All the credit to Mel. They’re a very good team. But we didn’t necessarily help ourselves tonight. Good news is our season isn’t done. We have the opportunity to show that we can battle through the adversity in less than a week.”