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Region baseball: Ace-catcher connection boosts Dunedin

Tyler Vogel and Tristan Morton have the Falcons headed to state for the second time in three seasons after a 4-0 victory over Cape Coral Mariner.

CLEARWATER — Even with all of the success Dunedin has experienced in recent years, there still was room for something more.

One day after graduation ceremonies, senior pitcher Tyler Vogel stepped up with one of the best mound efforts of his career, masterfully powering Dunedin to a 4-0 victory at Frank Tack Park over Cape Coral Mariner and a berth in the Class 6A state semifinals. ​

Vogel kept the Mariner offense off-stride all night, blending biting curveballs and sliders with a deceptively quick fastball, all for strikes. With ample help from junior catcher Tristan Morton, who caught a runner trying to steal second base in the third inning and picked another off of first in the fifth, Vogel only faced two batters over the minimum in throwing a 6.1-inning two-hitter, walking a pair while striking out eight. No runners for the Tritons (25-5) got into scoring position all night.​

“I felt incredible in the bullpen (warming up) and it translated (to the game),” Vogel said. “A lot of people were talking about how good (Mariner) was. I just wanted to pitch my game, Tristan called an amazing game and we worked hard together.”​

“We had good information on how to pitch (against the Tritons) and it required Tyler to be more methodical, to slow down his delivery and use some pace,” Falcons coach Ron Sexton said. “Most seniors are what they are and can’t adapt, but Tyler is just a great baseball player, and Tristan had his best game overall (Thursday). We allow our catchers to call their own pitches. It’s a lost art and Tristan’s a smart kid. He and Tyler were lights out.”​

Vogel also spearheaded an impressive one-through-nine effort offensively as he went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI in the Falcons' game-changing three-run fourth inning.​

“At the end of practice, after individual pitching and defensive drills, we always have to hit,” Vogel said. “We work so hard at it, we preach oppo (hitting to the opposite field).”​

“We’ve made great strides offensively,” Sexton concurred after a region final where every Falcon starter reached base. “The top of our order gets a lot of RBIs and that’s because eight of our nine starters are hitting over .300. Not all of them are line singles, but I’m really proud of our commitment up and down the order.”​

For example, Vogel’s run-scoring hit was a 45-foot chopper up the third-base line but the bases were loaded and senior Jonathan Hubbard (hit by pitch) scored easily. No. 9 batter Brock Cunningham rolled a single to rightfield to bring home sophomore Connor Russell (double down the rightfield line) and Chris Johnson’s sacrifice fly plated sophomore Marcus Brodil (intentional walk).​

This came after Cunningham executed a perfect two-strike sacrifice bunt in the third frame, moving Brodil (single) to third so he could score on Johnson's first-pitch opposite-field single to left.​

Clinching its second trip to Fort Myers in three seasons, Dunedin (22-8) now has a week to prepare for a final four date with Lynn Haven Mosley, who pounded seven extra-base hits in its 14-3, five-inning rout of Jacksonville Paxon School on Wednesday. ​

“One of the key parts of this season has been when the coaches have stepped back and let our four co-captains run practice,” Sexton said. “It’s fun to see the drills they come up with and the great leadership they provide, so that when we see a 3-0 lead disappear like it did against Lake Wales (in the region semifinals) there was no panic. We have good seniors and that’s been good for our underclassmen.”​

State baseball

At Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers

Class 4A: Calvary Christian vs. Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian, 7 p.m. May 24

Class 8A: Strawberry Crest vs. George Jenkins, 4 p.m. May 29

Class 8A: Plant City vs. McArthur, 7 p.m. May 29

Class 6A: Lynn Haven Mosley vs. Dunedin, 10 a.m. May 31

Class 6A: Jesuit vs. Miami Springs, 1 p.m. May 31

Class 7A: Doral Academy vs. Leto, 7 p.m. May 31