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Comets softball team advances in regional tourney

Taylor Barnes likes inside pitches.

When the Halifax County High School pitcher got an inside pitch she liked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning, she made Mountain View High School pitcher Taylor Levesque pay.

Barnes took an inside pitch from Levesque with two out, bounced it off of the outfield wall and drove in three runs to cap a five-run rally that gave her team a 5-0 lead.

"I love inside pitches," Barnes remarked.

"When I get them, I try to hit them as hard as I can."

Barnes and her Comets teammates took it from there, and shut out the Wildcats 5-0 to win Friday night's first-round 5A North Region Tournament game at Halifax County High School.

The win advances the Comets to Monday's regional tournament quarterfinals, where they will face George C. Marshall High School in a 6:30 p.m. game in Falls Church.

"This gives us motivation to go up to George Marshall on Monday and beat them and be strong," Barnes said.

"We stayed "up" the whole time, and stayed on the pitcher and hit her like we're supposed to. I think we could have scored more runs, but five was enough for today."

Barnes had two of the Comets' four hits in the game and three RBIs. On the mound, she struck out five Mountain View High School batters, yielded only two hits, both from the Wildcats' leadoff batter Amber Scites, and walked five batters.

The Comets hurler termed her game on the mound as "okay."

"It wasn't the best it could be, but it was enough for today," she pointed out.

"The strike zone was a little small."

The Comets got three of their four hits in the game during the second-inning rally, which started with a hit from Cecilie Elliott. Gabby Spainhour reached base on an error and Kye-Neisha Logan walked to load the bases. Elliott scored the Comets' first run by scoring on a wild pitch by Levesque.

A sacrifice fly to centerfield by Kirsten Doss scored Spainhour to make it a 2-0 Comets lead. Megan Puckett produced a hit to load the bases for the second time in the inning, and Barnes' three-RBI double gave the Comets a five-run lead they never lost.

With the exception of a two-out single by Barnes in the bottom of the first inning, all of the Comets' hits came in the second inning.

"It was a great game to win," remarked Comets Head Coach Melanie Saunders.

"It's a good, positive move towards Monday."

While the Comets won the game and advanced to Monday's regional quarterfinals, Saunders pointed out the Comets are going to have to generate more offense.

"We got those five runs off of four hits, and we've got to do better," Saunders noted.

"Here last Friday we had 16 hits. At PH-Ashland we had two (hits). Today we had four. We're better than that."

The Comets rode Barnes' pitching and solid defensive play that produced a pair of double plays.

Halifax County High School's first double play came in the top of the second inning when the Wildcats' Katie Whitehead sent a line drive to the Comets' Hannah Saunders in right field and Saunders threw out the Wildcats' Keirsten Kennedy who had reached base with a walk.

The Comets' second double play came in the top of the fifth inning when the Wildcats' Lydia Wanless hit a short pop-up to Barnes, who in turn, rifled a throw to Spainhour at first base to double up the Wildcats' Bella Garihaldi who had gotten on base with a walk.

"The kids were heads-up on defense, and that's where we need to be," Saunders pointed out.

"They've got to be resilient to things, and I think they did today. That's the kind of plays that will take the momentum away from that (the opposing) team."

Mountain View High School got two runners on base in the top of the seventh inning with walks from Barnes with two out. But, Barnes was able to right herself and strike out the Wildcats' Tiffani Phillips to end the game.

"The kids came out and jumped on them in the second inning and then we went flat," Saunders said referring to the fact her team had only two base runners over the course of its last four trips to the plate.

"We made great defensive plays. Taylor did well on the mound, kept the ball up in the air for us and got some good ground balls for the infield to handle and make plays. They (Mountain View High School) had runners on and could have scored, and she (Barnes) was able to put the pitch there to get us out of it."