FALCONS 4 TRITONS 0

CLEARWATER – For the second time in three years and seventh in program history, Dunedin baseball is heading to states.

Playing in their fifth straight region final Thursday night, the Falcons advanced to Fort Myers with a solid 4-0 victory over Cape Coral Mariner.

“We’re on cloud nine right now,” said senior shortstop Ray Sass. “Coming into this year we had one goal in mind and it was that we’ve got to get back to states and come home with rings. We’re one step closer now after this game.”

Dunedin’s last trip to the state final four came in 2017 and ended in the semis with a 7-0 loss against Tampa Jesuit. The Tigers (25-5) are back, too, playing in next Friday’s other semifinal at 1 p.m. against Miami Springs (22-2).

Dunedin (22-8) gets Lynn Haven Mosley (25-3) at 10 a.m. next Friday. The Class 6A state championship game will be at 4 p.m. next Saturday, June 1.

Leading the Falcons from the mound and from the batter’s box was Tyler Vogel. The senior turned in 6 1/3 stellar shutout innings, striking out eight and surrendering just two hits and two walks. Offensively, he went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI.

“When you get here you’re always going to face somebody good,” said Dunedin coach Ron Sexton, “but I thought the best player on the field tonight was the one who got the ball for us to start the game on the mound. Tyler Vogel was masterful tonight.”

“I felt incredible in the bullpen and it translated,” Vogel said. “I worked hard on it in practice, I worked mostly on mechanics, and then the pitching was there. It just came together.”

Vogel didn’t allow a Tritons baserunner to advance past first base and he got a few assists from his defense, as well. Catcher Tristan Morton stepped up by gunning down a stolen base attempt at second in the third inning and then picking off another runner at first in the fifth.

After playing to a scoreless tie through two frames, Dunedin got on the board in the third and then pulled away in the fourth.

Sophomore Marcus Brodil got things started in the third by leading off with the Falcons’ first of eight hits on the night. Vogel followed with a base hit that dropped in front of left fielder Xzavien Torres and Brock Cunningham laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third with one out. Chris Johnson followed with a fly ball to left that got in the setting sun and spun Torres around, allowing Brodil to score. Torres and Mariner shortstop Alex Freeland recovered on the play by limiting the damage and throwing out pinch runner Derek Dormois at the plate.

The fourth inning was the game changer.

Jonathan Hubbard, Connor Russell and Brodil loaded the bases with one out and Vogel’s infield single to third base pushed the lead to 2-0. A base hit by Cunningham and sacrifice fly to left by Johnson made it 4-0 Dunedin and the Falcons didn’t look back.

“After we all saw the guy one time, he wasn’t going to beat us with anything we haven’t seen before,” Sass said of putting together a rally against previously unbeaten Mariner starter Jimmy Meredith. “It was just a matter of time before someone started it and hits are contagious.”

Next weekend’s final four in Fort Myers will feature some of the most highly rated teams Class 6A has to offer. Since being updated Tuesday, MaxPreps.com has Jesuit No.1, Mosley No. 2, Miami Springs No. 4 and Dunedin No. 7. Mariner was at No. 3.

BOX SCORE:

Mar – 000 000 0 --- 0-2-0

Dun – 001 300 x --- 4-8-1

WP – Tyler Vogel (2-1)

LP – Jimmy Meredith (8-1)

TOP PERFORMERS:

Cape Coral Mariner (25-5)

Jimmy Meredith – Loss 6.0 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 2 HBP, 1 IBB – 1-for-3

Dunedin (22-8)

Tyler Vogel – Win 6.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K – 3-for-3, 2B, RBI

Chris Johnson – 1-for-3, 2 RBI, Sac Fly

Marcus Brodil – 1-for-2, 2 R, Intentional BB

Brock Cunningham – 1-for-2, RBI, Sac Bunt