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Gunning for a state title: What’s next / June 05, 2017
Halifax County High School varsity baseball had multiple opportunities to bow out in two marathon extra inning games against Stone Bridge and North Stafford, but the Comets showed championship-style character.

Halifax survived 11-inning and 12-innings in two elimination games, with the Comets advancing past North Stafford last Wednesday at home in a 2-1 win that put Kenneth Day’s club in Friday’s Region 5A north final at Briar Woods. Both of the last two teams standing have advanced to next Friday’s state tournament semifinals. Four teams — two from 5A north and two from 5A south — will settle the state crown.

Halifax, which reached the 20-win plateau with the narrow escape over the Wolverines, is seeking the second state title for baseball in school history. The 1984 team won the state when there were three classifications. Now, the Virginia High School league crowns six state title winners in baseball, with Halifax in 5A.

As for this team, there’s no question the Comets can pitch well and play defense. The offense has not been overwhelming in the postseason, but the bottom line is that Halifax has won and advanced, and, in the end, that’s all that matters.

Ironically, Carlton Redd picked up the win for the North Stafford gut-check, despite throwing four pitches.

He got the last out in the tension-packed top of the 12th in Wednesday, getting a fly ball out caught by Brayden Moore.

Then, Halifax sealed the deal in the bottom of the inning on Josh Barker’s walk-off blast to deep center that scored Tyler Duffer. Barker batted in the no. 8 spot in the lineup.

Redd got the Comets out of a tough spot, as North Stafford stranded three runners in the top of the 12th. But that’s how it went for the Wolverines, who left 11 runners stranded, including five in their last two at-bats.

North Stafford had to deal with two very tough pitchers, including the Gatorade state player of they year, senior lefty Andrew Abbott. Abbott had a rough patch, in the fourth inning, but still fanned 15 batters. Then, sophomore Drew Harlow, who has shown considerable poise in the postseason, came in and fanned six more batters and kept North Stafford off the board.

Finally, Redd sealed the deal in one of the most important Comet baseball games in recent memory.

Halifax had its chances to crack or fold under pressure, but the Comets continued to do enough to advance. Both North Stafford, which had recently beaten a very good Stafford club, and Stone Bridge, a recent state champion, provided extremely demanding tests.

The Wolverines had quality pitching, too, and throttled the Comets until the final at-bat in the 12th. Halifax had two hits in the final inning, finishing with eight overall. Halifax had several instances where Comet players hit the ball hard, but right at someone. Halifax also had a tough time figuring out the Wolverines’ pitching, especially starter Cody English.

The Comets tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, as Harlow walked, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a Moore double.

Halifax stranded seven runners in its first 11 at bats, before Barker’s shot got it done. Barker drilled the ball to deep center, with two Wolverine outfielders helpless to do anything, with Duffer rounding third to score easily.

Duffer will long remember that opportunity to get the Comets into the state tournament, as he cruised home knowing that North Stafford had no shot at the plate.

Ironically, Halifax had missed an opportunity to score the game-winner in the tenth, but an on-target relay from right fielder Zamari Brown had shut the door on that chance, nailing Tylik Powell at the plate.

Both teams had winning efforts, but only one could win. Halifax had plenty of savvy baseball, including fine work in left field on defense from Barker, who made a diving catch to get the first out of the inning and a tremendous running catch on the third out of the inning.

That’s how its going for these state tournament bound Comets now.

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