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Post 8 scrappy, with solid offense, pitching

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Briar Woods reigns supreme in 5A north / June 05, 2017
Halifax County High School varsity baseball has not won a regional title since 1995, and a hard-hitting Briar Woods team kept that drought alive Friday.

The Falcons, playing at home in Ashburn,, cranked up their power source and routed the Comets, 10-0, in the region 5A final.

But this was not an elimination game for the 20-3 Comets. Halifax has advanced to the state tournament for the first time in six seasons. It’s the first trip to the state for Comet head coach Kenneth Day, who had taken his other teams to the regionals.

Halifax will meet Prince George, the no. 1 seed in 5-A south, Friday at 10 a.m. in Westfield High School. Andrew Abbott will be back on the mound for that elimination game, facing a Prince George club that has earned its first-ever state tournament appearance.

Briar Woods has earned the other top seed at the state, no. 1 in the 5-A north. Briar Woods will play Menchville from Newport News in a 2 p.m. state semifinal.

The winners meet Saturday for the state crown, so it’s entirely possible there could be a rematch between Briar Woods and the Comets. But if that happens, Abbott would not be available for mound duty, although he would play, batting and playing right field.

Halifax got a good look at a potent Briar Woods lineup Friday, with three Comet pitchers struggling to get a handle on the Falcons.

Briar Woods hit Comet starter Alex Lowery hard. He took the loss, working four innings. Lowery surrendered seven hits, allowing five runs, four earned. Lowery fanned two batters and walked one.

Troy Ferrell worked one inning and allowed five hits and four earned runs, with one wild pitch. He also hit a batter. Ferrell did not get a strikeout and walked one.

Carlton Redd also worked one inning; Redd faced seven batters, with two strikeouts. He walked three, allowed one earned run and also hit a batter.

Briar Woods scored one run in the first inning, with Michael Ludowig hammering a triple to get the first score home.

Leadoff batter Jake Kleifges blistered a three-run homer over the left field fence in the second inning, and suddenly the Falcons had a four-run lead.

Kleifges rocked a triple in the fourth, and was sent home by the umpires after an errant throw from the Comets on an error by second baseman Tyler Duffer.

Ferrell took over in the fifth, and Briar Woods immediately struck for a booming solo homer from Ludowig. The Falcons battered the Comet reliever for five hits and four runs in the inning.

Halifax surrendered its final run in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to no. 8 hitter Brandon Hamm.

The Falcons finished with 12 hits, including four for extra bases.

Kleifges had considerable success, finishing with a homer, a triple and a single and scoring twice. Only Redd was able to get Ludowig out, on a sixth inning ground out, as the no. 3 hitter tripled, singled and homered.

Briar Woods prides itself on causing trouble throughout its lineup, and every Falcon either had at least one hit or scored a run.

Halifax will have to find a much better overall pitching solution if the Comets meet Briar Woods in the state finals. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, as Menchville will present a major challenge Friday.

The Comets did not play well Friday, but that does not diminish the season.

Halifax managed just five hits, including two in the third inning. Abbott went one-for-three and Clay Lloyd was two-for-three. Holt Powell had a timely single in the third. But Briar Woods centerfielder Ludowig easily threw out Comet courtesy runner Tylik Powell at the plate on Powell’s liner.

Otherwise, Halifax applied little real pressure to Falcon starter Sean Clark, who is not the team’s top option on the mound. Jack Jaekle came on in the seventh and finished the game, allowing only a two-out single.

It was a much different deal than Halifax's marathon, finish against North Stafford Wednesday.

Briar Woods coach Jason Miller has been able to succeed with strong pitching. But the team hits one through nine, and this club has done a lot of little things right. Wilson Ayers, a go-to junior lefty, is the top option on the mound and is heading to the U.S. Naval Academy. He will play baseball in Annapolis.

Ludowig is also headed to Deaconland, as a versatile performer on the mound and in centerfield.

Briar Woods improved to 18-7, and the Falcons are playing their best baseball now.

“We played well,” Miller said. J. Kleifges has hit the ball hard this year, and is the heart and soul of the team, according to Miller.

Ludowig later was awarded home after the relay through hit the brick facing of the dugout and was out of play.

Ludowig’s “a force. He’s real strong.he’s been really working hard on his approach at the plate.” Miller did not expect this lopsided result at all. He was pleased with Briar Woods’ overall approach at the plate, and he said this was the best overall performance on offense in the postseason.

Briar Woods also gets more confidence and momentum from the win. Miller also said he would not be surprised to see the Comets again Saturday.

Brayden Moore said afterwards, “I don’t like to lose any game, losing by that much kills me, especially when they’re hitting the ball and we’re not.

Halifax just did not hit, Moore conceded. “I don’t think anybody was on their A game tonight. Nobody hit the ball real well.

“It was just a bad game for us,” said Moore.

“We knew Briar Woods was going to swing the bats. I didn’t think we really played bad, bad. They just out hit us,” Day said.

“Let’s keep playing and see what happens next week,” said Day, who expects a matchup Friday of no. 1s in the HCHS-Prince George game.

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