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Season ends for Comets diamonders with 7-2 loss to Freedom HS

After having spent an emotional half hour with his departing players, Halifax County High School Head Baseball Coach Kelvin Davis returned to the dugout, stood by himself and stared silently over the empty field for several minutes.

The Comets' season ended Wednesday night with a 7-2 loss to Freedom High School of South Riding in a 5A North Region Tournament semi-final game, a loss that left the senior-laden Comets team one win short of reaching the Division 5 state tournament.

"This is a hard loss with the magnitude of this game and what we could have done if we had won this game," Davis said quietly.

"It's hard because we have a bunch of seniors that love this game like I love the game. I'm sad for them. I just hate this for the kids. I know how hard they have worked for me all season long. They don't get the opportunity to play high school baseball any more."

The Comets fell behind early and never caught up.

Freedom High School (13-12 overall) struck quickly, taking advantage of three walks from Comets freshman pitcher Andrew Abbott to load the bases, and then getting a two-RBI single from Jack Lerch to grab a 2-0 lead.

Halifax County High School produced a run in the bottom of the third inning when Dustin Crews led off with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly to left field from Tripp Bennett to make it a 2-1 game.

The Eagles upped their lead to 3-1 with a run in the top of the fifth inning with a walk, some deft base running and a bunt single by Tyler Parnell. Two runs in the sixth inning and two runs in the top of the seventh inning put Freedom High School over the top.

Halifax County High School scored its final run in the bottom of the seventh inning when Ethan Woltz laced a double to the outfield with one out and later scored on a wild pitch to make the final 7-2 count.

The story of the game for the Comets was that of missed opportunities. On three occasions, once in the first inning and twice in the third inning, the Comets shot themselves in the foot with base running mistakes that took away scoring opportunities.

After the Eagles had taken a 2-0 lead, the Comets' leadoff batter in the bottom of the first inning, Ryan Powell, walked. A sacrifice bunt from Andrew McCann put Powell at second base with nobody out. Will Harris went down on strikes for the first out. Tristan Howerton hit a hard line drive to Freedom High School second baseman Austen Killbride, who quickly threw to shortstop Kyle Wright to nab Powell at second base for a double play to end the inning.

In the second inning, the Comets had the bases loaded with one out, but could produce only the one run, and left two runners stranded.

The killer came in the bottom of the third inning when two key base running mistakes took the Comets out of a prime scoring opportunity.

McCann led off the inning with a double to leftfield and moved to third base when Harris, the next batter, reached base on an infield hit. While Howerton was at the plate, McCann got picked off at second base. Moments later, Harris was picked off at first base, leaving the bases empty. Howerton grounded out to end the inning.

"It's just part of the game," Davis remarked.

"The guys have got to really focus when they are on the basepaths. That was one of the things I had talked to them about. We just lost focus out there. We had runners on (base), we had the right guys up (at the plate), the guys that have been hitting for us all year long, and we just couldn't get it done."

Freedom High School Head Coach Jason Treon said his team's ability to take the lead in the first inning was a big factor in the outcome.

"That was a big key for us," Treon said, "especially since most of the year we've been kind of stagnant with a lot of one-run games."

The Eagles were productive with their fast-moving version of "small ball" that helped move runners into scoring position.

"The past couple of years that has been our mantra, try to force the issue a little bit, play fast, but play smart as well," Treon pointed out.

Halifax County High School had eight hits in the contest, with McCann and Crews leading the team with two hits. Powell, Harris, Tyler Stephens and Woltz had one hit each.

Freedom High School finished with 10 hits, with designated hitter William Sullivan leading the Eagles with three hits. Lerch and Parnell had two hits each, with Wright, Jake Anderson and pitcher Ryan Pressgrave getting one hit each.

Pressgrave went the distance on the mound for the Eagles, striking out four batters and yielding four walks and eight hits.