FORT MEYERS – They were down 6-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning of Friday’s Class 6A baseball state semifinals, but to a man, the Viera Hawks thought they still had a chance.
“The number of times we’ve been down in the last inning and came back and won, it’s probably four or five times in the last half-a-dozen games or so,” senior Cole Teply said. “You can’t ask for more.”
Despite getting the first two batters on base, there would be no Viera comeback this time.
As assistant coach Brock Doty told the team after 6-0 loss to Fleming Island at Hammond Stadium, “I think we ran out of juice today.”
The Hawks also ran into hard-throwing Fleming Island left-hander Cody Carwile, who threw a complete-game, five-hit shutout.
“That was a good team,” Viera coach Bob Doty said. “They were very good. That guy (Carwile) is 12-0 for a reason.”
Viera’s senior starter Cole Teply, meanwhile, ran into trouble in the third when he was struck in the back by a line drive up the middle. An ankle that was still swollen after he fouled a pitch off of it during practice on Monday, didn’t help either.
With two outs, and the game still scoreless, Viera had a chance to get out of danger when a ball was hit between the Hawks pitcher and sophomore first baseman Lucas Glendinning.
As Teply raced over to cover first, Glendinning tried to flip him the ball, but Teply missed first base and the inning continued with Fleming Island getting two big hits to drive in the four runs.
“It was that one inning … got hit in the back. That hurts,” Teply said. “But otherwise, I felt like I was making good pitches and those guys were just putting good swings on them and getting lucky putting the balls where we weren’t.”
Being behind was nothing new for Viera, which trailed 4-0 after the top of the first inning in the district championship game against New Smyrna Beach, but still came back to win.
But Carwile wasn’t having it on Friday.
“Today, I think the wind played a major part,” Viera sophomore catcher Alex Sosa said. “I think we had some balls that were pretty well hit. The first few innings, we found barrel on pretty much every swing. But we just had some balls go up into the wind and they didn’t go very far.
“I think what we could have done better was put the ball more on the ground, make them play baseball.”
Sosa had one of Viera’s five hits. Ben Schleeper, Liam Samuels, Luke Campbell and David Rusnak had the others. Viera had a runner thrown out at the plate in the fifth inning.
“We prepared well for it. We didn’t go in with the idea of, ‘Well, we’re just happy to be here,’” Bob Doty said. “We went in with the idea that we wanted to win that ballgame.
“That four-run inning where we had that really tough play, that communication ball with our first baseman and Tep … it was just one of those things. That’s a tough play.”
Fleming Island would score two more in the sixth to help put the semifinal away.
It was the final game for Viera seniors Teply; Samuels; Rusnak; Ben Schleeper; Jake Vermeire and Zach Zulawski.
“I mean, I can’t ask for anything more,” Teply said. “It’s a really great group of guys to end my senior year with. If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would make it this far, I would have said, ‘No way.’ I wouldn’t have believed it.”
This team made believers out anyone who watched them go 7-2 in one-run games and win in walk-off fashion at least four times on the way to the program’s first regional championship and appearance in the state final four.
Friday just wasn’t their day, but it shouldn’t take away from all they’ve accomplished this season.
“We played the best we could,” Sosa said. “All of our seniors went out there and played their last game and they all had fun. It was an important day for us and I definitely won’t forget it.
“… They (the seniors) been huge for me. I don’t even have the words to explain it for them. They’ve always been there for me. I’m looking forward to see them come out next year and all the seasons when they come back.”
With a lineup that included five underclassmen, including four sophomores, the Hawks should have plenty of talent coming back next season. As Bob Doty pointed out, now that the Hawks have gotten a taste of what it’s like to play in a state semifinal, they’ll want to do this a little more often.
And he was right.
“This was super cool,” Sosa said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be back, too. Hopefully, we can go father. Now we know what everything looks like. We have a lot of returning guys, a lot of sophomore guys.
“I’m looking forward to the next few seasons.”