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A wild finish

South Boston News
Top, GW’s Brad Smith slides in ahead of a throw to Comet third baseman Dustin Crews Saturday at Daniel Park. (David Conner II photo)
SoVaNow.com / May 13, 2013
GW-Danville erupted for four runs in a seismic seventh inning, clinching a pulse-pounding 5-4 win over Halifax County High School in Danville Saturday.

The Eagles, 17-2 overall and 7-0 in the district, appeared headed for their first WVD loss, especially after HCHS scratched out two runs in the top of the seventh to extend the lead. HCHS led, 4-1, with GW three outs away from a tough loss.

But the Comet starter, Seth Elliott, wilted in the seventh. HCHS did not have its reliable closer option, as senior starter Patrick Barton suffered a severe ankle sprain in Friday’s non-district win over Magna Vista.

Barton was trying to break up a double play. He slid into second, and the ankle rolled over and Barton had a sprain.

Hunter Byrnes delivered a gut-check two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to lift GW to the one-run win, dealing HCHS a very tough loss.

HCHS also had to play GW without another key senior, shortstop Nick Anderson, who hurt his back in Dixie ball last week.

The comeback win gave GW-Danville the Western Valley district regular season title and a no. 1 seeding in the Northwest Regionals. HCHS, now 10-7 and 5-3 in the district, will have to wait until this week to see how its regular season plays out.

Franklin County beat Fleming Thursday, and then got rained out Friday against PH. The Eagles and the Pats still have to play.

If FC wins, the Eagles would match HCHS with a 5-3 district record, and a lotto/tiebreaker procedure would go into effect. If FC loses, the Eagles would be 4-4, and Halifax would have second place in the regular season and would host the no. 3 team in the first round of the WVD tournament.

GW, meanwhile, is the no. 1 seed in the WVD.

GW ace Blake Bivens gutted out the win, as the Liberty University pledge did not have his best game. Bevins still found enough to get the job done, overcoming some defensive miscues from GW.

Former Halifax coach Barry Powell, now in charge of the GW program on an interim basis after a sudden coaching change in Danville, called this “typical GW-Halifax baseball.

“We were very fortunate to come back and battle back. We made mistakes in the early part of the game, but (Halifax) hit the baseball. You come in today, it was going to be a dog fight,” said Powell.

“Any time you can beat Halifax, it’s quite an accomplishment.”

(The Comets) played well today,” said Powell. GW plays today at PH.

Powell knew HCHS would come ready to play. He stressed, “we’ve got to battle. Blake, he’s our stud. He didn’t have his best game today, but it’s hot out here, and change in the weather.

“Wasn’t this a great game? It’s a shame somebody had to (lose),” said Powell. “It’s tough to lose one in the last inning.”

Byrnes, the no. 2 guy in the lineup, “got a great hit at a great time.” HCHS varsity head coach Kelvin Davis admitted the Comets are struggling with their rotation. Clearly, Elliott gave out.

“He just couldn’t get in his groove. He pitched a heck of a ball game. I keep tipping my hat off to him, because he’s a wonderful pitcher.

Unfortunately, he just gave out,” said Davis, lamenting the injury to Barton, who twisted his ankle and had a severe sprain.

HCHS took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning, playing effective smallball to get the runner home.

Dustin Crews smashed a hard hit ball off the leftfield fence at the Danville Braves park for a double. A passed ball got him to third, and Rufus Jeffress later squeezed him home.

GW tied it in the bottom of the third, bolstered by three singles and a sacrifice. Hunter Byrnes tied the game with an RBI single. HCHS took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth.

HCHS did when they had to do to manufacture some offense. HCHS played a great game and had excellent defense, but fell short.

“Whenever GW and Halifax get together, it’s going to be a great ball game,” said Davis.

With one out, Hamlett ripped a single past second. Avery Anderson laid down a flawless bunt to get Hamlett to second.

Dustin Crews reached first on a GW throwing error off an infield dribbler. The first baseman came down on the bag but Crews was ruled safe. Hamlett, continuing to hustle, rumbled home on the play to give the Comets a one-run lead.

Crews eventually reached third after another GW error, but the inning ended on a flyball out.

Halifax pulled off an unconventional triple play in the bottom of the fourth. GW got a double from Bivens and runners were safe at third and first.

Elliott got a strikeout, and then an Eagle runner was thrown out trying to steal second. GW’s Bivens then tried to come home on the play. Bivens overshot the plate, the umpire froze without making a call, and the runner scampered back. A. Anderson got the final out before the runner could score, sealing the triple play.

HCHS went relatively quietly in the top of the sixth, and GW threatened in the bottom of the inning.

The Eagles got their leadoff runner on. Moments later, Elliott fielded a sharply hit ball back to the mound. He turned and fired to Tristan Howerton, subbing at short for N. Anderson. Howerton got the out at second and fired to first baseman Hamlett in time to complete the DP.

Bivens then grounded out at third, and HCHS was three outs away from sealing the win.

HCHS appeared to give itself some wiggle room in the top of the seventh.

At least that looked to be the case when the Comets took a 4-1 lead.

Jeffers hit a solid one-out single. GW dropped a throw at second for a forceout attempt, and, suddenly HCHS had runners on first and second. The Comet runners later advanced into scoring position.

A single delivered by Tyler Stephens ended with the lead Comet runner thrown out at the plate, but Halifax was not finished.

Howerton laid down a slow roller. The GW throw from short to first sailed off target, and two Comets scampered home for a 4-1 Comet lead. Then, the turbulent bottom of the seventh arrived, with GW finding a way to claw to the win.

One of the most compelling GW-HC showdowns started when Elliott, clearly running out of gas, hit Jered Tubb with a pitch and then walked Josh Via. Elliott then got a strikeout, but George Roos singled and Mike Hunt was hit by a pitch.

Brad Smith was also hit by a pitch as GW clawed within 4-3.

Then, Hunter Byrnes delivered the dagger, a blistering two-run single past second, with the bases loaded. The hit scored Roos and Hunt, setting off a wild celebration for the Eagles.

And bitter disappointment in the HCHS clubhouse.

Byrnes finished the game going three-for-four, collecting three RBI for GW.

The Eagles had nine hits against Elliott, as the Comet ace fanned two batters, including one in the seventh. But Elliott could not get a break in the seventh, perhaps getting a ground ball for the Comet defense to close out the game when it needed that kind of opportunity.

Bivens pitched a gutsy game and held HCHS to seven hits. Stephens was the lone Comet to get two hits, as he went 2-for-2 with a run scored. Bivens fanned seven, allowing no earned runs.

Normally, HCHS would have had Barton available for the GW seventh. This time, the senior was sitting in the Daniel park bleachers, with his angle in a protective boot, helpless to do anything about the developing GW rally.

“The guys gave me everything they had, Seth included,” said Davis. “This game is crazy ... it can turn on you, just like that, just little things ... That’s why it’s called a game of inches.”

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