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Pitching, defense key 5-1 Comet win

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State championship team takes the field

The members of the 1984 State champion Comet varsity baseball team got together Friday night for the 25th anniversary reunion at the Comet baseball field. A special plaque of recognition was presented to the head coach of that team, Frosty Owens. HCHS went on to play Loyalsock, Pa. in a baseball game. (Blakely Swanson photo)
SoVaNow.com / March 23, 2009
Mix a superb early complete-game pitching performance by Kyle Long, opportunistic hitting from the offense, and sparkling defense, and you have a 2-0 start for the HCHS varsity baseball team.

The Comets downed visiting Loyal sock (Pa.), the defending state champion in its classification, 5-1 on an historic night at the Blues’ field.

The 1984 Comet state championship team, still the lone state titlist in HCHS history, was honored on its 25th anniversary before the game. Two members of that team, Kelvin Davis and Casey Waller, are now the head coaches for the HCHS and Loyalsock varsity baseball teams, and Waller notched his first state crown as a coach last season.

But Davis and the Comets got it done on a chilly night, sparked by a one-hit, 11-strikeout masterpiece from senior left-handed hurler Kyle Long, headed to Longwood University next season.

HCHS also took advantage of its opportunities at critical times, showing timely hitting and fleet-footed base running to get past the visitors.

The Comets also got an excellent pitching effort from Long, who kept Loyalsock off balance and ended the game with a strikeout after narrowly missing a no-hitter.

Kyle Long noted, “I was in the zone. It felt good to finally be back, arm was in shape good.”

He made effective use of his fastball and changeup.

Aside from a strong pitching performance, Kyle Long appears to have gained some maturity heading into the season.

“I’ve come to realize this is my last year playing, and I’m trying to give it all now,” said the Comet hurler.

Long also benefited from increased arm strength.

“My arm feels incredible. I feel like I can throw another seven innings.

Last year, if I threw seven innings, I’d be home soaking that thing all night.”

His confidence is also on the rise.

“I’ve been working on throwing strikes. I’m working on keeping my arm in shape and going one pitch at a time,” said the left-handed hurler.

Comet head coach Kelvin Davis was pleased with this strong outing.

“I told Kyle at the end of the game, I’m glad to see him back. He struggled a little bit last year on the mound.”

Kyle talked to Davis at the start of the season, proclaiming his readiness for the season. “If he keeps performing like he did tonight, he’s going to be hard to beat.

“He had a lot of confidence. He didn’t need a lot of runs behind him, but he had a lot of confidence. That’s something that he’s got to continue to work, as far as getting that confidence that he had.”

The Comets supported the lefty with timely hitting.

HCHS finished with seven hits, as Kaleb Long led the Comets with a double and a single.

HCHS got out of the first inning, when Kyle Long got the second out on a swinging strikeout, and Loyalsock got caught trying to steal second. Kaleb Long threw a strike to nab the runner.

Halifax later briefly threatened in the second, and also in the bottom of the fourth. The Comets, sparked by a bloop double by Patches Trent, managed to load the bases, but the inning ended on a strikeout.

Kaleb Long turned in another defensive web gem by throwing out a Loyalsock runner trying to steal in the top of the fifth.

Halifax finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth.

Chris Sizemore reached on an error, and, with one out, Kyle Long walked.

Sophomore Kelvin Davis went in as a pinch runner.

Bill Wooding followed with an RBI single to get the first run on the board.

Eric Brandon later followed with a two-run double to right, and HCHS led 3-0.

Halifax manufactured more offense in the bottom of the sixth.

Kaleb Long reached second on a double, and Tyler Long was hit by a pitch.

Kelvin Davis was sent in to run for Kaleb, and stole third.

Davis then added the fourth run in a clever bit of aggressive base running by HCHS. Tyler Long started a steal attempt at second, and Davis capitalized by rushing home ahead of the throw. Tyler Long ended up safe at second.

Kelvin Davis, the son of the head coach, is part of the Comet depth, with potential to create headaches on the base paths.

“That’s one of the things I wanted to do, just get him up and give him varsity experience. He’s quick, he played basketball and he’s got a little quickness in him,” said Davis.

Davis added that Kelvin is not the only option at base running for the Comets. “We’ve got a couple of weapons over there, not only him, Mike Owens, Markee Brooks. We’ve got some guys who can run the base path pretty well for us.”

Kyle Long followed with a bloop RBI double, and the Comets had a 5-0 lead.

Kyle Long finally lost a no-hitter in the top of the seventh, as Loyalsock put together enough offense to get on the board and deny the Comets a shutout.

HCHS got solid defense, as Kaleb Long has proven difficult to steal on so far this season. Halifax has other advantage on defense, including rangy second base play from Wooding. The Comets also did not make major mistakes in the field.

“All along, this is going to be one of our highlights, as far as our defense....our defense all the way around,” said Davis.

Davis said he has athletes who can run the ball down in the outfield, and good, solid players who can make plays.

“We had some good base running. When we got runners in scoring position, Eric and Bill Wooding came up with some big hits.”

Loyalsock, coming off a fabled state title run under Waller, also gained some positives from the trip to Cometland.

Waller said, “I felt like our pitchers went out there and competed. I was proud of our three pitchers that went out there. I was disappointed the way we swung the bat tonight. I was disappointed with some of our plays, miscues, in the outfield, missed a couple of crucial signs.

“I was pleased with the effort overall, but some of them lost focus, that was disappointing,” said Waller.

Waller said Loyalsock has a good pitching staff, and Loyalsock had its first game experience Friday. The pitching is ahead of the hitting, but Waller said Loyalsock has a team to make another deep state run this season.

Waller is starting his sixth season at Loyalsock, with one state title and two district crowns to his credit.

The Comets and Lancers have developed a classy rivalry, which will help both programs. Waller said he would continue to play Halifax, his alma mater, as long as he’s coaching at Loyalsock.

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