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Softball team faces Loudoun Valley in game Wednesday

The Comets’ varsity softball team used “small ball” to key its win over Patrick Henry for the Western Valley District Tournament title last week. The short game worked again Monday in the first round of the Northwest Region Tournament at home against North Stafford, with Meg Bane’s bunt plating the game’s only run in a 1-0 win that propelled the Comets to a region semifinal game at home today at 5 p.m. against Loudoun Valley.

VeVe Brandon and Sydney Puryear each reached base on errors before Bane came to bat in the Comets’ first at-bat, with Brandon scoring from third on Bane’s bunt to make it 1-0, a lead Halifax hurler Samantha Gibson and her defense made stand for the remaining six innings.

“It happened last game, she gave me the bunt sign and I did what I was supposed to do,” said Bane.

“Ms. Saunders said she has confidence in us, and we’ve worked on it in practice pitch after pitch,” continued Bane, who added the team works on bunting each practice.

“It’s teamwork, we picked each other up, and we worked hard for Sam.  She’s amazing.”

“Our defense is always there,” Gibson pointed out.  We practice and practice, and today it paid off for us.”

Being one win away from the state tournament means all the team’s hard work is paying off, Gibson added.

“It’s all coming together, and how we’re seeing the results of that hard work,” explained Gibson, with focus each inning of each game being the key to the Comets’ success.

“I’ll say again how crucial the bunts are,” said Comets’ coach Melanie Saunders.

“We can call on any of these girls at any time to do it, and they know it.  It makes no difference, whether it’s the No. 4 hitter, No. 9 hitter, they can get them down and move the runners.”

Gibson and North Stafford pitcher Kelsie Barker each struck out eight batters, with Gibson allowing only one hit and Barker allowing four hits, including Bane’s bunt single, a double by Jill Trickey and consecutive base hits by Jennifer Lacks and Bane in the sixth inning.

Gibson and the Comets’ defense worked its way out of a one-out jam in the third inning when an error, single and walk loaded the bases, Gibson getting a strikeout and inducing a groundout for the final out.

The Comets also turned a double play in the sixth inning to keep the Wolverines at bay.

Halifax had chances to score more runs, but they twice left the bases loaded, once in the fifth inning where Trickey stroked a double, Kelsey White drew a walk and Jameshia Smith reached on a fielder’s choice.

Bane singled and Jennifer Lacks bunted her way aboard to start the sixth, and Jamilia Smith reached on a fielder’s choice, but the Comets again failed to score.

That in large part was due to Barker, according to Saunders.

“We’re very lucky and blessed to get out of here 1-0, with bases loaded twice and not being able to score,” said Saunders.  She (Barker) had a lot of movement and changed speeds, and she kept our kids guessing.

“This is by far the best pitching we’ve seen all year, and you can see it in the score.”

“Kelsey pitched a tremendous game, but our defense did not play the way we know how, and our offense did not come through.  We had so many chances to put runs on the board,” said North Stafford coach Pam Kantor.

“We just didn’t come through today.  These girls have had a great season and a great past two weeks, but our timely hits just didn’t come through for us like they have been.”

Getting out of the bases-loaded jam and turning the double play were crucial points in the game, as was keeping focus despite eight runners left on base, Saunders explained.

“That’s what we preach, just keeping our heads up and keeping our focus from beginning to end,” Saunders noted.

“We have to get used to this kind of pitching, it’s going to be just as good if not better from now on, and they have to have shorter swings, get to the ball and put it in play.”
“They realize that after today.”