VENICE, Fla. -- Once again, the Venice Indians find themselves on the precipice. And if all goes well for them Wednesday night, they will go for another state championship Thursday.
The 2-time defending state champion Indians are 22-7 on the season, nationally ranked, and they go for a 3rd straight state title if they can win Wednesday night against Winter Haven.
"We are going to have to field the bunt well. Brandon Elmy is going to do what he does best: throw strikes. We are going to have to put the ball in play and go the other way," says head coach Craig Faulkner.
This Indians team has a different personality than the past two state champions. They have all done things well, but this one is a little more reliant on doing the little things. “We play a lot more small ball, since we don't have the big hitters we used to have. So, we play the small ball that wins games," says pitcher Kade Hunkapiller.
Because of the way the schedule has been spaced, Brandon Elmy has pitched all 3 playoff games, and he had a no-hitter in the win over Estero in the regional semifinal.
"Our pitching has really come around. Pretty amazing; our ERA is 1-point-something overall. I'm pretty happy with what they have done. Brandon Elmy has really been coming through for us down the stretch here," says Faulkner.
In order to win the state title, however, they will have to unleash an oddity; not that Hunkapiller is an oddity himself, but the fact that he is a knuckleballer -- and a left-handed one at that – is. "I started to throw the knuckleball around 3 years ago. It was just a screw around pitch. I threw it a few times in travel ball, and then I struck out the last 3 batters of a game, and coach said, 'you're sticking with it.'"
The Indians play Winter Haven in the state semifinal game Wednesday night at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers at 7pm.