Fleming Island Shuts Out Viera To Reach 6A Finals
The Fleming Island Eagles made it to the state tournament for the first time this year thanks to an aggressive mindset that has had them chasing after it all season. That approach continued in Friday’s Class 6A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, as the Eagles pounded out 10 hits on offense to back a complete-game shutout from Cody Carwile to claim a 6-0 victory over the Viera Hawks.
The Eagles (25-5) advance to Saturday’s title game, where they will face the Bloomingdale Bulls (23-6). Bloomingdale advanced with a 3-2 win over the Dwyer Panthers in Friday’s other semifinal.
“We stuck to our guns. We’re a very aggressive team,” Fleming Island Manager Grant Biglin said. “When Cody is on the mound, we know if we get a few runs in support we’ll be okay. We had the big third inning, and I just think our aggressiveness paid off. We had timely hitting and we found a hole when we needed to.”
Fleming Island broke the game open with four runs in the top of the third inning, before tacking on two more insurance runs in the seventh. Eight offensive starters reached base during the game to keep constant pressure on the Hawks (20-7).
“They had a lot of hits where I was just impressed with how they were able to put the bat on it,” Viera sophomore catcher Alex Sosa said. “At least three hits that they had, I was blocking the ball. They had a few balls that were off the plate and they just hit them backside. They are a just a really good hitting team.”
Gavin Billingsley and Justin Lebesch both singled to put some ducks on the pond with two outs in the third inning. Aiden Mastantuno then found a gap in left-center field for an RBI double that got the Eagles on the scoreboard.
“The at bat is a lot easier when you know you have people behind you who are going to pick you up,” Mastantuno said. “I just wanted to go out there and put the ball in play. They were shifting me to the left; I wasn’t purposely trying to hit it over there. I was trying to pull the ball. But I got enough of it and it was tailing away from the center fielder, and the left fielder was playing on the line, and it dropped, and I was pumped up.”
The Eagles seized that momentum and capitalized with two more runs in the inning. Marcus Murray lined a single off the pitcher, Jack Gidcum walked and Drew Homitz delivered a double to left that plated both base runners.
“We were right there with that play, and that was a tough play with that ball in no-man’s land,” Viera Manager Bob Doty said. “Every run after that was an unearned run, so they scored four runs on two outs there. It is just a tough play.”
Homitz was just getting started on his day, as he came through with another RBI double in the seventh. After Mastantuno supplied an RBI single to right that drove home Lebesch, Homitz connected on a liner that was just fair past third base for his third RBI of the contest. Homitz was 3-for-4 to lead all hitters.
“For me, I like going after the first pitch, because he’s trying to establish the zone right there. So aggression for all of us is best,” Homitz said.
That was more than enough run support for Carwile, who improved to 12-0 on the season. The senior southpaw scattered six hits and two walks, while striking out five. Making the start in the program’s first-ever state semifinal meant a lot to him, and he embraced that honor with an unforgettable performance.
“Not a lot of people get to be in the spot that I was just in, so I don’t take that lightly. That was awesome,” Carwile said. “I had so much fun out there and that’s all I could ask for. I felt really good coming out of the gate, and the slider and fastball was really good. The slider started flattening out, so I went all fastballs in that last inning, because I felt I had more speed on it. But pretty much, those were the two pitches I stayed with. They were working pretty good.”
Another thing that was working really good for the Eagles was the overall team energy. With eight established seniors and two sophomores in the lineup, and about seven other players who are only pitchers, Fleming Island had a sizable number of players who did not see the field and could only contribute from the dugout. The energy, enthusiasm and support that the Eagles’ dugout exhibited throughout the entire game made a difference, both with their own players and with the opposition.
“Everybody knows their roles at this point,” Biglin said. “We’ve got six or seven guys that only pitch, so they know their roles and their spots. We knew Viera was going to be establishing the zone early, so we wanted to attack that ball early. I think our energy got in their head and made them try to locate here and they pressed a little bit, and the bats went to work today. It was really nice to see.”
Fleming Island has numerous players who will continue on to play college baseball, so Saturday’s action will not be the end to many of their careers. But Coach Biglin knows he can still expect them to play with the passion that comes with any swan song, as they have a chance to end the music with a championship celebration.
“I’m proud of these guys for being here, and I think they know that tomorrow is it for high school, especially all these seniors that have been in the lineup. So they are going to leave it all on the field,” Biglin said.