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Comets slip past Battlefield
SoVaNow.com / May 30, 2013Lockdown pitching and clutch defense are the staples for any team seeking to advance in its postseason tournament games.
Halifax County varsity softball had just enough of both Monday.
The Comets slipped past Battlefield squad, 1-0, in Northwest Regional elimination action in South Boston. The Comets moved on to a Wednesday regional semifinals showdown with Osbourn, which defeated Albemarle, 2-1, in an 11-inning marathon Monday.
Halifax improved to 20-2, seeking its first state tournament appearance since 2011.
The winner of the Halifax-Osbourn game Wednesday moves on to the regional finals, and to next week’s Group AAA state quarterfinals.
Comet freshman hurler Taylor Barnes delivered a prime time performance for the host team Monday, keeping Battlefield off balance.
Meanwhile, HCHS overcame a sluggish start at the plate and got just enough offense.
Megan Puckett, batting third in the lineup, delivered a game-winning, bloop RBI single, enough to score Tayler Mosley for the lone run of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Barnes allowed three hits, all singles. She stranded five runners, including two in the top of the fourth and one Battlefield runner left at third in the fifth. Barnes issued one walk and struck out eight. She struck out the side in the final at-bat for Battlefield.
Battlefield sophomore Teresa Wagner almost matched Barnes. Wagner allowed Puckett’s RBI single in the fourth, while limiting the Comets to three hits. Wagner stranded three Comets, including two in scoring position in the sixth inning. She issued one walk.
As is often the case, a handful of plays decided the outcome.
“After the first couple of innings, you knew that what was going to happen. It was going to be a key defensive play, a key hit with runners in scoring position, and that’s what happened,” Comet coach Melanie Saunders, said.
HCHS showed good hustle on defense from the outset, with Kye-Neisha Logan making a nifty running catch for the first out in right. Barnes fielded the third out of the first inning with a good play at her position.
HCHS went quietly in the bottom of the first.
Comet second baseman Meg Bane made a fine catch beyond the infield to get Battlefield’s leadoff batter in the second inning. Barnes then fanned Jamie Armstrong, but the Bobcats’ Teresa Wagner slapped a basehit between third and shortstop. But the runner was stranded as Barnes got the final out of the second inning.
Battlefield set HCHS down in its half of the second.
Barnes got a strikeout to open the Battlefield third. Halifax catcher Ashley Watts got a putout and Barnes ended the Bobcats’ third with a strikeout.
HCHS went out in 1-2-3 fashion in the bottom of the third.
Barnes ran into some potential trouble in the top of the fourth.
Barnes got a strikeout to open the inning. But Alexis Champion singled, and Ruthie Martin reached on an error at third. Suddenly, Battlefield had two on, with one out, and one runner in scoring position.
Barnes then fanned Jamie Armstrong, and induced Wagner to ground out, with Miyana Ross making a solid play at third.
The Comets had stranded two runners.
Mosley scratched out the first Comet hit in the top of the fourth. Ross laid down a slow-developing dribbler. Battlefield got Ross at first, but Mosley had the chance to move all the way over to third. Battlefield tried to get Mosley at third, but the Bobcats could not make a play.
Mosley scored when Puckett delivered a soft RBI single just past first base. It turned out to be enough for Barnes and the Comet defense.
Barnes asked for more trouble in the top of the fifth, issuing a leadoff walk to Taylor Adams. Battlefield got the runner to second on a sacrifice, and Thia Caraylannis bunted the runner to third.
With two outs, the Bobcats had their best chance for a tie.
Barnes, however, had her defense working behind her. Ross got another groundout, getting a solid throw to first baseman Cori Campbell.
HCHS generated no offense in the bottom of the fifth, but, by then, the Comet faithful knew what they needed.
Battlefield’s Aden Wooliever bunted, and Watts made a blazing, on-target to Campbell at first to get the leadoff out in the top of the sixth.
Cecilie Elliott scooped up a grounder at short, before Martin picked up Battlefield’s second hit, a flare to left field.
Ross then made a fine play on Armstrong to end the top of the sixth. The Comets threatened in the bottom of the sixth.
Watts showed a careful eye and walked to lead off the inning. Mosley laid down a drag bunt to move Watts to second. Ross followed with a punch-style basehit. But the Comets stranded two two runners in scoring position.
Barnes then had to set down Battlefield in the top of the seventh, and she delivered, with help from the Comet defense.
Barnes fanned Wagner and then Adams.
Tension and apprehension rolled through the Comet stands. Barnes got the final strikeout to end the game and sealed a Northwest tournament semifinal appearance for HCHS.
Halifax is now headed to a difficult matchup with Osborn, which will present a major roadblock for the Comets.
Battlefield head coach Joe Schelzo said, “They have an incredibly strong pitcher - catcher combination, a senior pitcher and a sophomore catcher. They can be a little suspect defensively everywhere else.
“Their catcher is amazing. She has got a cannon arm and she is a major bat. She hits the ball hard every time,” said Schelzo.
It’s all part of another regular challenge for the Comets - breaking through the Northwest Regional semifinals.
WVD UPDATE: Franklin County defeated Osbourn Park, 3-2, on Monday, and the Eagles will met Orange Wednesday. If both the Eagles and Comets win Wednesday, the regional finals would be at HCHS Friday.
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