- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
For the first time in seven years, a Halifax County High School baseball team has earned a berth in the Group AAA State Tournament. It couldn’t have come in a more unlikely fashion.
With Wednesday night’s Northwest Region Tournament semifinal game tied at 7-7 and the Comets’ William Worley at third base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Osbourn Park High School Head Coach Rod Hodgson opted to intentionally walk the Comets’ Dylan Sons and Ryan Puryear to load the bases.
That wasn’t particularly bad strategy, considering that Sons had stung the Yellow Jackets with a three-run homer in the third inning to give the Comets a 7-2 lead and Puryear had had a hit in the fifth inning.
With his team’s top hurler, Scott Halsey, on the mound in a relief role, Hodgson opted to take his chances with the Comets’ Aron Puryear, the eighth batter in the Comets’ lineup.
The furthest thing from Hodgson’s mind was Halsey hitting a batter. But, he did.
Halsey struck Puryear with a pitch, forcing Worley across the plate for the game-winning run to give the Comets an 8-7 win.
“I was looking for a curve ball,” remarked Puryear, who had been tagged for a game-tying two-run homer by the Yellow Jackets’ Sean Garza in the top of the seventh inning while trying to close out the game on the mound for the Comets.
“I thought it was coming at me. I just wasn’t going to move.”
While taking the pitch may have stung briefly, Puryear called it a relief.
“It was a ton of relief,” he said.
“I was struggling out there on the mound. I just wanted to retaliate and get a run back. It felt good.”
Hodgson said the decision to load the bases was a calculated gamble.
“Our pitcher (Halsey) had good control,” Hodgsdon explained.
“The kid at the plate (Sons) was hitting the ball well. I took a chance and it didn’t work out.”
Wednesday night’s win propelled the Comets into tonight’s Northwest Region Tournament Championship game where they will face Battlefield High School here at Comets Field at 6 p.m.
The win also earned the Comets a berth in next week’s Group AAA State Tournament., which begins on Tuesday.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Comets Head Coach Kelvin Davis.
“I’m so proud of our guys. They wanted this from the very beginning and now we have an opportunity to keep playing. To see these young men give their heart to this game makes me very proud as a coach. Everybody, including the coaching staff, has worked hard to get us into this position.”
Halifax County High School (17-4 overall) broke a 2-2 deadlock with a five-run rally in the bottom of the third inning that gave it a 7-2 lead. A run-scoring single by Worley kicked off the scoring and Sons followed with a three-run homer. Ryan Puryear and Aaron Puryear walked, bringing an end to OP starting hurler Scott Soltis’ day.
With Halsey on the mound, Dylan Hendricks slapped a double to score Ryan Puryear to give the Comets a 7-2 lead.
The Yellow Jackets (19-4 overall) picked up two runs in the fifth inning to make it a three-run game at 7-4 and took advantage of a Comets error, a walk and a hit in the sixth inning to cut the deficit to two runs at 7-5.
Garza got Osbourn Park High School back even with his two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning. However, the Yellow Jackets got no further, stranding runners at second base and third base after their top two batters in the lineup popped up fly balls into the infield for easy outs.
Halifax County High School had 10 hits in the game with Worley leading the way with a 3-4 effort at the plate that included a pair of doubles and two RBIs. Dylan Hendricks had two hits including one double and two RBIs and Kelvin davis Jr. chipped in a pair of hits.
Sons, Ryan Puryear and Aron Puryear each had one hit.
Osbourn Park High School had seven hits in the contest with Garza and Brian Baquer getting two hits each.