- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler & Doug Ford
Western Valley District Tournament play begins Tuesday with Halifax County High School’s baseball and softball teams playing at home in the first round. The regular-season champion Comets softball team will host fourth-seed GW at 5 p.m. with the Comets baseball team, the regular-season runner-up, hosting third-seeded Patrick Henry High School of Roanoke at 6 p.m.
Admission will be $5 per person. No local passes will be honored for tournament games. Only Virginia High School League passes will be honored.
Comets’ varsity softball head coach Melanie Saunders is happy her team has clinched a home game in the first round of the regional tournament, but doesn’t want the Comets to lose focus or momentum in the district tournament.
“We’re still going into the tournament with the mentality that we want to win all of them, that we want to stay on top,” said Saunders.
“Our kids are feeling good about themselves defensively, offensively, and we just want to go into each game focused and get to the Northwest Regional Tournament focused.
“This will be the first time in awhile that we’ve been able to get that first game at home and not have to travel four or five hours. The kids have played hard and deserve that first home game in the Northwest Region Tournament.”
Saunders thinks the team is right where it needs to be entering the district tournament, both in the field and at the plate.
“You never know who shows up each game, the top of our lineup may be on fire one day, the middle or the bottom the next day, and that’s a good thing for us,” said Saunders.
“We have people throughout the lineup who can hit and put down a bunt if needed.
“That’s a great thing for us as coaches, the ability to do that and being comfortable with doing it.”
Another key to the Comets’ post-season success is doing what they’ve been doing all along, taking things one game at a time.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all along and we know we have the region coming up, but the whole season we’ve prepared for the next team in front of us,” explained Saunders.
“We don’t ever look too far ahead, because when you do that you can get yourself into trouble.”
The Comets are as close a team as any she’s seen in several seasons, Saunders noted.
“I haven’t had a team like this in five or six years that really plays together as a team as well as this group does,” Saunders pointed out.
“All of the kids’ confidence levels are so much better because they know if they make an error or strike out somebody else is going to be right there to pick them up.
“That says a lot about these girls. Sometimes when you make an error or strike out, the momentum goes down.
“With this team they try to pick each other up and stay up.”
Comets seniors Jessie Bagbey, Stephanie Clark, Megan Day and Johanna Spencer echoed their coach’s thoughts.
“We’ve come so close before, and we stayed together this time and fought our way through it,” said Bagbey.
“The key has been ‘togetherness.’”
“Winning the district feels really good, because we’ve worked so hard,” said Clark.
“We’ve never had such a close-knit team.”
Day said winning the district was a big accomplishment in her senior year.
“It’s a big accomplishment for us in our senior year. We’re all very close and we’ll miss each other, I know that.”
Spencer does not want the season to end on a sour note, and the key is for the team to keep following the recipe for success it’s had all season.
“This year’s been a good year,” said Spencer. “We have a good group of girls, and we’ve played together.
“We just have a bond that no other team has had, and I’m glad for coach Saunders and “G” (coach Jennifer Rutledge.”
Tuesday’s test for the Comets baseball team will be a big one.
With a win, the Comets (15-3 overall, 6-2 district) will advance to Thursday’s district championship game, opening the door of opportunity for the Comets to get a shot at earning the district’s second seed for the Northwest Region Tournament.
If the Comets prevail over Patrick Henry and regular-season champion Franklin County High School defeats GW on Tuesday, the Comets will face Franklin County Thursday in Rocky Mount in the tournament championship game. In that scenario, the Comets will make the field for the Northwest Region Tournament regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s tournament championship game.
However, if the Comets advance and GW advances with a win over Franklin County, the Comets would have to win Thursday’s tournament championship game to earn the district’s second seed for the Northwest Region Tournament.
Comets head coach Kelvin Davis feels his Comets team will be ready to face Tuesday’s test.
“Our work is cut out for us,” Davis pointed out.
“We’ve got to go out that night and play good, fundamental baseball. PH beat us here earlier this season and they beat us here last year in the district tournament semifinals. They’re a good ballclub and we’re going to have to play well Tuesday night.”
Davis said he is pleased with the way his team has bounced back from its earlier setbacks.
“The guys have rebounded very well since the losses to Franklin County and Patrick Henry (during the regular season),” Davis said.
“We hit the ball well against GW and we hit the ball well against PH up there. It’s good to see the guys still going out and playing hard.”