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Nine runs in ninth inning lift Comets

Halifax County High School’s Ryan Yates was hitless in four trips to the plate when he stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the ninth inning.


The Comets were deadlocked 2-2 with neighboring border rival Person (N.C.) High School in Thursday’s game in Roxboro, N.C., and the Comets had failed to capitalize on three previous scoring opportunities.

Yates, for the second time in the game, was in a position to make a difference. He was unable to come up with a run-producing hit in the seventh inning – but this time he did.

The Comets’ rightfielder, the first batter to face Person High School relief pitcher Ty Clayton, laced a hard-hit ball to the outfield for a double to score teammates Tristan Howerton, who was running for catcher Dylan Hendricks, and Nick Anderson to put the Comets up 4-2.

Yates’ two-RBI double was the first shot of what would be an explosive nine-run inning for the Comets that would result in an 11-2 win over the Rockets and give the Comets (9-3 overall) their seventh straight victory.

“I just needed to find a hole somewhere,” Yates said. 

“I was hitting the ball, but it was right at people. The pitch I hit was a little low and inside. I just went with it and hit it into the outfield.”

William Worley, who like Yates, had been hitless in four previous trips to the plate, followed with another two-RBI double, the first of two hits he would have in the inning, to put the Comets up 6-2.

Worley went to third base on a Rockets’ error, and scored when relief pitcher Ryan Puryear produced a hard-hit line drive that bounced off of the glove of Person High School second baseman Matt Overby to make the score 7-2.

The Comets scored four more runs to ring up a nine-run lead the Rockets were not able to dent.

While the Comets won the game with the nine-run rally, it was a sterling game-saving defensive play by the Comets in the bottom of the eighth inning that proved to be the real difference.

The Rockets’ Austin Cole was at second base with two out, having reached base on a fielder’s choice that erased teammate Joel Newton. Clayton nailed a pitch from Puryear to the outfield for a double. Comets centerfielder Ford Bradshaw ran down the ball and delivered a line-drive throw to second baseman Will Harris. 

Harris, in turn, threw a perfect strike to Hendricks at the plate to nail Cole and prevent the game-winning run from scoring.

“It was a good relay from the outfielder (Bradshaw),” Harris pointed out.

“I just turned around and I saw the guy running to third (base) and threw it. I knew I had time (to make the throw) when he (Bradshaw) threw it to me.”

Comets Head Coach Kelvin Davis said the play was the play of the game.

“As a coach, it makes you proud when you work on defensive situations like that and you see the guys execute it on the field,” Davis said.

“We had been working on the double cut and talking it and how important it is and why we do it. To see it executed like we executed tonight made my night.”

Puryear, who went to the mound in the fifth inning to relieve starting pitcher Seth Ellliott, had a big night.

The Comets senior entered the game with the score tied at 2-2, and struck out eight of the 18 batters he faced. He yielded only three hits and did not walk any batters. Approximately 75 percent of the pitches Puryear threw were for strikes.

“I wanted to come out and throw strikes and try to keep the game close,” Puryear said.

“My curve ball was working well, and I was throwing strikes and was in my groove. When I can do that, I can throw strikes all day. 

“I knew our team could do it,” he added.

“I knew we would eventually bust open and get runs.”

For awhile it didn’t look that way. After both teams scored two runs in their respective halves of the third inning, the Comets stranded runners at second base and third base in the top of the fifth inning.

The Comets had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh inning and failed to score, and left runners on second base and third base again in the top of the eighth inning.

“What we did was keep them in the ballgame by not driving those runs in,” Davis pointed out. 

“We just didn’t get the key hits at the right time. That’s part of the game of baseball. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it early, but we hung in there and got those hits later in the game. We didn’t hang our heads down. We kept fighting.”

The Comets had 14 hits in the game, but had only five hits through the first eight innings. Bradshaw and Hendricks led the team with three hits each, Worley had two hits and Harris, Yates, Dylan Sons, Puryear, Patrick Barton and Nick Anderson had one hit each.

Person (N.C.) High School had six hits in the contest, with Clayton leading the Rockets’ effort with two hits.

The Comets have two home games this week, facing Patrick Henry High School here Tuesday at 5 p.m., and facing Person (N.C.) High School in a rematch here Thursday night at 7 p.m.