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Comets win 12-inning marathon

South Boston News
Comet right fielder Josh Irby makes a diving attempt in foul ball during the HCHS-FCHS varsity baseball game Tuesday. (David Conner II photo) / April 03, 2014
Andrew McCann showed excellent patience at the plate, as the Comet no. 2 hitter drew a walk-off free pass in the bottom of the 12th inning Tuesday night, giving the Halifax County High School varsity baseball team a 5-4 win over Franklin County.

McCann battled at the plate. He said it’s his first walk-off free pass.

“Anything to win is great,” said McCann. “We’re confident, and I believe we’re a great team. We have the potential to go far places.”

The Comets are now 3-0.

The game ended after more than three hours of action, with both teams making big plays. There were multiple double plays, well-executed pickoff plays, key hits, defensive web gems, clutch pitching and a clever bit of baseball strategy by the Comet coaching staff that manufactured the first run by the Comets.

Both teams played their hearts out, in what’s believed to be the longest Comet home game in the modern history of the program.

“They’ve got a heck of a ballclub. We’ve got a heck of a ballclub,” said Comet head coach Kelvin Davis. “We just get up for Eagles.”

Davis expressed pride in the Comets.

Tripp Bennett emerged as a key reliever for the Comets, after starter Ryan Powell struggled a bit. Bennett worked six innings, throwing 54 strikes and 27 balls. He faced 23 batters and walked just one batter. He fanned five, allowed five hits, and one earned run in a terrific stint on the mound.

“He did a heck of a job for us. I was concerned about his pitch count, so we went with Colby,” said Davis.

Colby Grissom finished, and got the win in relief in the 12th, when HCHS snapped a 4-4 tie.

Grissom threw 26 strikes out of 46 total pitches, facing nine batters. He hit one batter, walked two, and fanned two. He did not allow a hit or a run.

Grissom performed well, and Davis is very pleased with the pitching staff.

The Comets finally overcome some earlier missed opportunities with a clutch performance in the bottom of the 12th.

With one out, Korry Lennon singled. Bennett reached on an error, putting runners on first and third. FCHS elected to load the bases with an intentional pass to leadoff batter Powell, a logical baseball move.

But it all went awry for the Eagles when McCann battled and ultimately got a walk, forcing in the winning run.

But this riveting baseball game had almost everything.

FCHS put on a heck of a pitching effort, as HCHS battled three Eagle hurlers, Ryan Brewer, Braxton Wheeler and Jarod Bridges.

HCHS had more opportunities but frequently came up short, finishing with 11 hits. FCHS collected seven hits.

FCHS broke open a scoreless tie with three runs in the top of the third, with two runs scoring on wild pitches from Powell.

Halifax had some base running mistakes, but also had some strong defensive plays. The Comets used some savvy baseball strategy to manufacture their first run in the bottom of the third.

Bennett looped a bloop hit to center, and he later scored after HCHS started a rundown after McCann had beaten out a single on a high throw to first by FCHS. McCann started for second and got caught in a steal attempt with two outs, but HCHS also sent the runner from third. He scored on a steal of home, as he crossed the plate before the putout was made on McCann, giving the Comets their first run.

Davis said the Comets practice that play, a first and third situation.

“We work on that, both from the offensive side and the defensive side, because that’s a huge part of the game,” said Davis.

The Comets also had to overcome base running mistakes, giving the HCHS baseball staff some teachable moments.

FCHS went back up, 4-1, in the top of the fifth on a scorching RBI double from Chad Huston.

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