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District Title Almost In Hand

The Halifax County High School varsity softball team did a little bit of early celebrating Friday night. For the first time in quite awhile, the Comets can face the final week of the regular season without the pressure of a tough “must-win” game or having to face a play-off game to win the regular-season Western Valley District title.

Halifax County (18-1 overall, 6-1 district) used a two-run homer by Sydney Puryear in the top of the fifth inning to seal a 4-0 win over Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke and take sole possession of first place in the district standings.

With a very winnable game against a struggling William Fleming High School team looming here in Tuesday’s final game of the regular season, the Comets are virtually assured of getting their hands on the district championship trophy following Tuesday’s Senior Day contest.

“This game was really big for us,” Comets coach Melanie Saunders said in the wake of Friday’s win.

“Usually at this point of the season we’re tied with someone and are looking into the next week knowing we have at least two games to go in order to finish up the (regular) season and having to go in and play a tiebreaker for the title. Getting this win was huge. Now, we can be more relaxed.”

With a win against William Fleming High School here Tuesday, the Comets will win the Western Valley District regular-season championship, earn the district’s top-seed for the Northwest Region Tournament and have a home game in the first round of the Northwest Region Tournament.

The Comets will also be guaranteed a home game for the first round of the Western Valley District Tournament by winning the regular-season title.

Friday’s win set the table for the Comets with Puryear playing a big role. In a career-best game, Puryear went 3-for-3 with a double, a triple and a two-run homer, a round-tripper that also plated Johanna Spencer, to put the game out of the Patriots’ reach.

“I just saw the ball well today and had confidence,” Puryear said.

“She (Patriots pitcher Hannah Otterman) moved the ball around the plate and I went with the pitch.”

Saunders said she first considered having Puryear bunt the ball.

“I thought again and realized how well she was hitting the ball today. That’s why I gave her the green light. She got it (the ball) right where it needed to be hit and went with the pitch.”

Halifax County scratched up two runs to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning. Puryear reached base with a triple with one out and Jamilia Smith laid down a perfect bunt that allowed Puryear to score. Smith was safe at first base on the play and scored when Megan Day followed with a single.

“At first, I thought it (the ball) was going to be a little hard to get down,” Smith said of the bunt.

“But, I had confidence in myself and was able to get ball down.”

Saunders said the bunt was a called play.

“That was a call, but she (Smith) knows she has the green light on that at any point,” Saunders explained.

“At any point in the game, if we give her (Smith) that (the bunt signal) or she wants that (to bunt) she can do it. She came through at a great time. She put the bunt exactly where we needed it and scored that run.”

While Otterman fanned 10 Comets batters, the Comets still came up with nine hits in the game. Along with three hits by Puryear, the Comets got a hit each from pitcher Stephanie Clark, VeVe Branbdon, Jameshia Smith, Jamilia Smith, Day and Jessie Bagbey.

Clark held Patrick Henry High School (12-6 overall, 5-2 district) to four hits with Ashley Funck getting two of them.

“My hat’s off to Patrick Henry,” Saunders said.

“Their pitcher, Hannah Otterman, is a great pitcher. We were a little worried early. We like to jump out early and get hits and score runs. She did a good job on the mound and didn’t allow us to do that. They’re a good team. I know they’re going to come out in the district tournament ready to roll and come out on fire.”