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State baseball: Dunedin returns to first final in 11 years

Lynn Haven Mosley strands 10 runners, while the Falcons come up with defense and hits at the right time to win 7-4.
Dunedin first baseman Jonathan Hubbard, center, jumps for joy after scoring in the third inning of a Class 6A state semifinal against Mosley. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published May 31
Updated May 31

FORT MYERS — With 11 seniors and a state semifinal already under its belt, Dunedin was hoping experience would get it into the Class 6A state final.

There were several moments where the Falcons could have cracked in Friday afternoon’s semifinal against Lynn Haven Mosley, but they never panicked.

After leaving runners on base in the first two innings, and making big defensive plays to get out of jams, the Falcons scored three runs in the third inning and did the same in the fifth to break the game open and eventually defeat Lynn Haven Mosley 7-4 at Hammond Stadium.

The Falcons (23-8) will play Jesuit on Saturday at 4 p.m. This will be the first state final appearance for Dunedin since 2008, when it won it all. The Falcons played in the state semifinals in 2017, losing 7-0 to Jesuit.

Dunedin's Jonathan Hubbard slides in safe at home in the third inning of a Class 6A state semifinal against Mosley. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

“We were resilient,” Dunedin coach Ron Sexton said. “I think being a younger team you start dwelling on coulda-shoulda then you take it onto the field. That didn’t happen today.”

Mosley, ranked 14th in the state by MaxPreps, left 10 runners on base. Dunedin, which is ranked 41st in the state, also left 10 on base. But it was able to get key outs on defense and key hits on offense.

Dunedin finally broke through in the third.

After Chris Johnson was caught stealing, Ray Sass doubled over the leftfielder’s head. Tristan Morton then walked, and one out later Jonathan Hubbard did the same. Connor Russell then worked a 3-2 walk for the game’s first run.

After making a key defensive gem, Dunedin third baseman Lake Fisher gets a high five from shortstop Ray Sass. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

Marcus Brodil followed that with a solid single up the middle that plated Morton and Hubbard for a 3-0 lead.

The Dolphins got a run back in the fourth. With two outs, Clete Hartzog doubled with a runner on first to cut the lead to 3-1. Brodil made a nice running catch in leftfield to end the inning and prevent any more damage.

“I thought the ball was going to be foul and I wasn’t going to get to it,” Brodil said. “But I got to it.”

Then the Falcons were able to break the game open in the fifth inning by scoring three more runs. Russell and Brodil both singled with one out. With two outs, Brock Cunningham singled in a run for a 4-1 lead.

Johnson, who went 3-for-3 with a walk, then singled home Brodil with two strikes, and a throwing error at third base allowed Cunningham to score the inning’s third run.

Dunedin first baseman Jonathan Hubbard, left, — along with Brock Cunningham — rejoices after scoring in the third inning. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

“We preached this year that two strikes was not an exit plan,” Sexton said. “You have to stay in there and win the next pitch. I think Chris’ two-strike at-bat was the best of his career. It was one of the biggest since I’ve been here (six years).”

Mosley (25-4) made it interesting in the sixth. Mason Smith greeted reliever Mitch Mussler by singling with the bases loaded to drive in two runs. But the throw from leftfield to third caught the runner off base for the third out.

Dunedin was able to tack on a run in the seventh when Lake Fisher scored from third after Brodil was caught in a run down between first and second.

In the seventh, Dominic Baratta relieved and allowed a run on a bases-loaded wild pitch. But he was able to get a strikeout to end the game.

Dunedin starter Tyler Vogel fires a pitch during a Class 6A state semifinal Friday morning against Mosley. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Dunedin and Vogel held a 6-1 lead. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

Tyler Vogel, pitching in his final game with Dunedin, threw 5 ⅔ innings and allowed six hits and five walks. But he got the outs when he needed them. Vogel earned the win and is now 11-2 in postseason games started.

“It was tough,” Vogel said. “They were a good swinging team. I really had to dig deep and trust my pitches and my catcher. And our defense always makes plays.”

Mosley pounded out 10 hits while Dunedin got 11. Dolphins coach Jon Hudson said his team picked the wrong time to have bad luck.

“This happens in the game of baseball, but to have so many breaks go the other way, you hope that comes in the other 25 games you play,” Hudson said. “But crazy things happen. They made a lot of great plays on us, but every inning we felt something was there but it just didn’t happen for us.”

State baseball

At Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers. Admission is $9 per day (advance) or $12 (day of); parking is $10.

Class 6A: Dunedin vs. Jesuit, 4 p.m. Saturday

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