Baseball | Canes battle but fall short in Class 8A-District 8 semifinal

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 23, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Rob Viera wasn't ready to see Manatee's baseball season end Tuesday.

And it wasn't just because the Hurricanes lost 10-7 to Riverview in a Class 8A-District 8 semifinal, stopping Manatee a game short of the region tournament.

Rather, Manatee's coach was happy with how his players conducted themselves and wanted to see them carry that momentum forward.

"We never let down," Viera said. "Best heart I've seen from our team all year. And that's what's sad, that's the hard part about coaching -- it doesn't go our way (Tuesday) when you saw the heart we had in that game."

The Canes, the tournament's second seed, trailed 4-0 after a half inning and 9-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth. But they made a game of it twice, trimming the deficit to 4-3 in the third on run-scoring singles by Shane Rocklein and Robert Rew and a run-scoring groundout by Khalyd Cox.

And after the third-seeded Rams scored five runs in the fifth, Manatee scored twice in the fifth and two more times in the sixth and trailed 9-7. That was as close as the Canes got, however.

"The heart we showed (Tuesday), the best we showed all year," Viera said. "Tough to walk away from these guys."

Despite the final score, neither pitchers -- Manatee's Weston Davis and Riverview's Alex Detweiller -- deserved much of the blame. The Canes and Rams teamed to make 11 errors, and Riverview's big rally in the fifth was fueled by just one hit, a two-run single by Brett McCabe.

And Cox's single was the only hit Manatee needed to score during the fifth and sixth innings, when Riverview, which plays St. Petersburg on Thursday for the District 8 title, committed all six of its errors.

"Physical errors happen," Viera said.

Cox also tripled for the Canes (13-12), who called up eight players from the JV team for the postseason.

"This is the most excitement I've seen," Viera said, "and the energy from the JV kids really helped our team."

Manatee graduates four seniors, and, despite the sour finish, Viera felt progress was made in his first season at the helm.

"They had the same guy here for the last three years for the seniors," Viera said of Dwayne Strong, the Canes' former coach. "We come in and we want to change a lot; things were different. For them to buy in to what we're doing -- definite groundwork."

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