Alex Sosa pointed his index finger toward the sky.
The Viera High catcher had just come through in the clutch with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, lining a 3-2 pitch into left field to score Luke Campbell with the game-winning run as the Hawks defeated St. Cloud 2-1 in a Class 6A regional quarterfinal game at the USSSA Space Coast Complex Friday night.
“Once the ball falls, I’m rounding first,” Sosa said. “I saw the team running out of the dugout. It was really good.”
Sosa was mobbed all right.
Just a half-inning earlier, the Hawks had their hearts nearly broken when a fairly routine two-out groundball was bobbled, allowing St. Cloud to tie the game at 1-1.
But now the Hawks (18-6) are moving on. And their next opponent won’t need an introduction.
New Smyrna Beach (16-8) defeated District 8 champion Harmony 4-1 Friday night to set up the fourth meeting of the season between the Barracudas and the Hawks. The two teams met twice during the regular season, then for the District 7 championship and on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., they are scheduled to meet in the regional semifinals.
Which field that game will be played on at the USSSA Space Coast Complex is unknown at the moment.
Because of some work being done inside the stadium, Friday night’s game was moved to Marucci Field and a packed house saw quite an entertaining game that saw some great pitching and defense from both sides.
“It was a great game,” Viera coach Bob Doty said. “Gosh, we had it wrapped up there. But I tell you what, we were right there. It was one of those calls where you have your three seniors on the mound. That’s who you want to have the ball.”
Viera senior Cole Teply went the first five innings for the Hawks, allowing four hits while striking out seven. He was replaced by senior lefty Dave Rusnak in the sixth and senior Liam Samuels came on in the seventh to get the win.
St. Cloud starter Clayton Boroski, meanwhile, pitched into the seventh inning, allowing three hits while striking out 10.
The Hawks got on the board quickly in the bottom of the first as Edian Espinal tripled to lead things off. Sosa followed with a ground ball and Espinosa was safe on a throw to the plate to make it a 1-0 game.
Both teams had chances to score, but that was it until the seventh inning.
Viera turned a sensational double play in the fourth on a nice play by Espinal at short, stopping the ball and then flipping it to second baseman Zach Zulawski for the throw to first.
Even then, the Bulldogs managed to put two runners on in the inning before Teply got out of it with a fly ball to right.
The Hawks, meanwhile, put their first two batters on in the third and got a runner to third base with two outs in the fourth but couldn’t break through.
That all brings us to the top of the seventh.
After St. Cloud drew a leadoff walk, the Hawks brought in Samuels to close things out. A second walk put the tying and go-ahead runners on base with no outs. They then moved into scoring position on a little chopper in front of the mound that had Samuels throw to first for the first out of the inning.
The next batter hit one up the middle that got past Samuels, but was stopped by Zulawski, who threw home in time for Sosa to apply the tag for the second out of the inning on a brilliant play by Viera’s second baseman.
Another ground ball gave the Hawks a chance to come away with a 1-0 win, but the subsequent error allowed the tying run to score and suddenly, it was a 1-1 game going to the bottom of the seventh.
Campbell opened the inning by beating out an infield single. Boroski struck out the next two batters, but walked Espinal and was removed, no doubt, due to a rather high pitch count.
As the St. Cloud reliever was warming up, Campbell went up to Sosa and Teply and gave them both a scouting report.
“(Campbell) knew him from before,” Sosa said. “… Luke told me this guy throws a fastball, a curveball and sometimes he’ll come down and drop from sidearm.”
Oh and Campbell told Sosa one more thing, too.
“He told me, ‘You got him,’” Sosa said.
A pitch to the backstop would move the runners up to second and third, and on a 3-2 pitch, Sosa went to the opposite field. The ball was sinking when St. Cloud’s left fielder made a great effort to just get his glove on it, but he couldn’t bring it in.
“Their fans were yelling, ‘Strikeout! Strikeout!’ to try to get in our heads,” Sosa said. “He threw me a pitch that was up and I just took it the other way for a line drive.”
This wasn’t the first time the Hawks have been in a close game.
With the brutal regular-season schedule they played, they’ve been in enough of them to know how to stay calm and relaxed in tight games and situations. And that certainly paid off Friday night.
“We played well the whole game defensively,” Doty said. “We pitched well. We didn’t come up with that big timely hit early when we needed to … but it was one of those things.
“We’ve been here before (thanks to our tough schedule). We’ve had those moments right there, so we’re prepared for them. That’s a good thing.”