Hawks hand Merritt Island its first loss as several Viera players shine

Viera High;s Liam Samuels (foreground) reacts after delivering a single that scores pinch-runner Zachary Florido during Thursday night's game against Merritt Island. Samuels went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and came on to get the save as the Hawks defeated the Mustangs 6-3.

For the second straight night, the Viera Hawks welcomed an undefeated baseball team into the USSSA Space Coast Complex.

And for the second straight night, the Hawks sent the other team home with its first loss of the season.

Cole Teply and Liam Samuels had a solid night on the mound and at the plate and Viera also got a big night out of center fielder Jake Vermeire as the Hawks defeated Merritt Island 6-3 Thursday night.

Viera’s victory came one night after a strong pitching performance by David Rusnak and another big night by the offense led to a 7-2 win over New Smyrna Beach.

“It’s a great win. It always is anytime you beat a great team,” Viera coach Bob Doty said. “We’re looking forward to competing with the best and, obviously, when you see some of the teams we’re seeing – and will see – it’s fun.

“The guys are loose. Some of the older guys are really leading this ballclub.”

Samuels went 3-for-3 with two RBIs for Viera (5-1). Vermeire was 2-for-3 with an RBI and had a great over-the-shoulder catch in center field.

Ben Schleeper also had two hits and an RBI. Teply had a two-run single. Edian Espinal had a hit and scored twice.

On the mound, Teply struggled somewhat with his breaking ball command but still went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs while striking out four. Samuels had a strikeout in 1 2/3 innings and got the save.

“I definitely did not have my sharpest stuff tonight, but I feel like I did good enough to get the job done, get the win,” Teply said.

A senior transfer from Holy Trinity, Teply has been impressed with how well the Hawks work together.

That was certainly evident Thursday night as Viera was able to put together a couple of nice innings on offense and come up with the big plays when needed on defense.

The Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead on an RBI single by Samuels and a run-scoring triple to left field by Vermeire.

It stayed that way until the Mustangs got a run in the top of the fourth. Merritt Island would also put two on with two out in the fifth before Teply got the final out on a fly ball to right field.

Viera was then able to break the game open in the bottom half of the inning with four runs, including a two-run single by Teply that was followed by an RBI single by Samuels.

Teply seemed more excited about his hit than anything he did on the mound.

“Obviously, I’d struck out twice before that and I just felt like it was a big confidence booster for me,” he said. “It wasn’t the greatest swing, but it got the job done.”

Viera took a 6-1 lead into the top of the sixth, but the Mustangs came back to score twice and had the bases loaded with one out before Samuels got out of the jam on fly balls to right and left field.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to their hitters,” Doty said. “One through nine, they just kept battling. We couldn’t get them out. Finally, Liam settled in. He just threw about 10-12 pitches in the pen and then he had to get an (at-bat). And then we had to take him out of right field (to come in and pitch).”

Samuels then worked a scoreless seventh inning and the Hawks had the victory.

While Doty was pleased with the way his entire team played Thursday night, he also pointed to a solid performance by freshman Dylan Jordan, who was brought up to play third base because of an injury, and then moved to right field when Samuels came in to pitch.

While the Hawks have been playing well at the start of the season, the challenges are far from over. Viera is scheduled to go on the road Tuesday to play a very good Rockledge team.

“Obviously, we’re playing really well,” Teply said. “I think it helps that there’s not much drama in the dugout. Everybody’s getting along really well.”