Mosley Turned Back By Dunedin In 6A State Semifinal
Friday morning culminated in a moment that was years in the making, as the Dunedin Falcons earned a 7-4 victory over the Mosley Dolphins in a 6A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Playing in its second state semifinal in the past three seasons with much of the same personnel from that 2017 group, Dunedin seized the momentum early and rode it all the way to advance to the state championship for the first time since winning it all in the 2008 season.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins see a successful and special season come to an end one game shy of the title game. Mosley finishes the season 25-4 and was the last team still playing from their northwestern region of the state.
“I am proud of what my boys were able to accomplish this year,” Mosley manager Jon Hudson said. “It was a tough game today. It’s baseball; sometimes things don’t go your way. We hit some balls hard and they made some great defensive plays. They turned a couple of double plays that got them out of some jams and it was just one of those days that happens in the game of baseball.”
Making his second career start on the big stage at the state semifinal, Falcons starter Tyler Vogel earned the win. Vogel battled for his team into the sixth inning and working his way out of trouble nearly every step of the way. The right-hander allowed three earned runs on six hits and five walks, and he had one strikeout.
“It was tough. They are a good swinging team,” Vogel said. “All I had to do was dig deep, make my pitches and trust my catcher. I trusted my defense one hundred percent.”
Three runs in the bottom of the third put Dunedin ahead with a lead it never surrendered. With one out, Ray Sass put a charge in a pitch and sent it bouncing deep off the left field wall for a double. Catcher Tristan Morton worked a walk and gave way to courtesy runner Dominic Pineiro, and a walk to Jonathan Hubbard loaded up the bases. Connor Russell worked the count to draw an RBI walk that got the Falcons on the scoreboard, and Marcus Brodil broke things open with a liner to center that easily plated Pineiro and also allowed Hubbard to slide in just ahead of the tag at the plate.
Mosley immediately applied pressure by putting the lead-off runner on base to start the next frame, as Trent Justice started off with a walk. But Dunedin turned a smooth 4-6-3 double play to snatch the momentum right back.
“We had several chances to have big innings and either they made a great play or it didn’t work our for us,” Hudson said.
The Dolphins swung the pendulum right back in their favor with their next swings. Brayden Gainey walked and Clete Hartzog laced a shot into the left-center field gap for an RBI double. Christian Lasecki followed by putting a sting on the ball and driving it deep to the left field corner, but Brodil had an excellent read and made a nice sliding catch to end the frame.
“That left fielder made a great catch on that ball down the line,” Hudson said.
The Falcons went right back to work at the plate with their next swings. Brock Cunningham walked on four pitches to get it going and Chris Johnson clobbered a shot deep over the right fielder for a double. Sass was hit by a pitch to again load up the bases, but the Dolphins benefited from a strange sequence of events that resulted in two outs. A grounder rolled to third, but the lead runner went back to third and was picked off, and then the trailing runner reached third but attempted to go home and got caught up in a rundown. A fly ball to center then closed that frame with no damage done.
“We knew that the heat would be a factor, and it was sweltering out there,” Dunedin manager Ron Sexton said. “We were here in 2017 and I told the kids that every year having been through this, we have preached and they have done the conditioning. But it affects your concentration, and I will put that on the heat. When you are out there sun-baking, your mind gets fried sometimes. It really took us out of some potential big innings, but what I liked is we were resilient. We really recovered from some mistakes.”
Mosley kept plugging away and threatened again after putting two runners on with one out in the fifth. Mason Smith singled to center and Drew Yeager walked to put some ducks on the pond, and an infielder grounder moved both runners into scoring position. But a screamer went right back to the glove of Vogel to end that threat.
That momentum carried right back to the plate to start the next inning, as both Russell and Jaydee Marks singled to keep applying the pressure. A wild pitch advanced the runners, and Brock Cunningham delivered another run with a base hit to left that pushed Russell across the plate. With the runner in motion heading to second, Johnson rolled a single up the middle to push Brodil home, and a throwing error let Cunningham also race home to make it a 6-1 advantage.
“Momentum was a big part of everything. Once you get the momentum you can’t lose it,” Vogel said.
Mosley finally succeeded in chasing Vogel from the mound by loading up the bases in the top of the sixth. Shane Skibba walked but was erased when Hartzog hit into a fielder’s choice. Lasecki supplied a base hit to left and Jaden Rudd also walked to fill the bags and prompt a call to the bullpen for Falcons reliever Mitch Mussler. Mason Smith greeted him by drilling a shot into the left field corner to drive in two runs, before Dunedin alertly recorded the last out by gunning down a runner on the bases.
The Dolphins kept fighting until the end, putting runners on base and nothing another run in the seventh. Yeager, Trent Justice and Skibba all singled to load the bases, and a passed ball allowed Yeager to come home for the last run of the day.