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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Eagles turn on the offense from the start

Monday, April 29, 2013

By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor

Franklin County, a team noted for its late-inning run surges, took a different approach to the manufacturing of runs Friday night in its last Western Valley District regular-season match-up against two-time reigning league baseball kingpin Halifax County.

The Eagles scored at least once in every inning at the expense of a Comets' four-man pitching corps that was under duress from start to finish in an 18-8 league triumph at W.W. Naff Jr. Field.

The contest, which exceeded the 2 1/2-hour mark, was stopped with two outs in FCHS's half of the sixth frame when senior second baseman Bryan Scalf drew a bases-loaded walk from Halifax pitcher Thomas Cole, the last a four pitchers employed by the Comets.

Scalf drove in five runs. He belted his second career home run -- a three-run blast in the bottom of the fourth and walked twice with the bases full. He was 2 of 2 in his two official visits to the plate.

"One of my teammates told me it hit the top of the fence, that it just cleared it,' Scalf said. "...This was a team effort, it wasn't just me.'

Scalf said he couldn't help not to think about hitting grand-slams in the fifth and sixth.

"I just wanted to keep the same swing. My goal is to get on base and do my job. My goal isn't to hit a home run, but I'm not giving (the one I hit) back,' Scalf said.

Both the Comets (3-2 in the WVD) and the Eagles (3-2 in the WVD, 8-8 overall) which defeated Patrick Henry in a league contest on the road Saturday, 8-6, have three WVD regular-season games left and both have chances to defeat current district leader George Washington-Danville, but both will have to do so on the road.

The Eagles started league play with consecutive losses to Danville and Comets, but has won three WVD games in a row. Halifax was 3-0 in district play before falling to Danville and the Eagles in succession.

FCHS's win over the Comets is the first for the Eagles during Barry Shelton's one-plus seasons as skipper; its first since its postseason tournament victory in 2011 as a No. 4 seed matched against No. 1 seed Halifax.

"We came out aggressive early and swinging the bat,' said Shelton, who made some alterations to his batting order that paid offensive dividends for the Eagles.

"Even Wednesday (in a 5-4 non-district loss to Lord Botetourt), I thought we had a very good offensive approach and I was very pleased with that. We just didn't show it on the scoreboard,' Shelton said.

That and a Thursday batting practice, which drew rave reviews from Shelton, carried over to Friday contest, Shelton said.

"It's rare that you're going to beat Halifax (by the slaughter rule) because they're good. That's why we played it straight up to the end because they can put up an eight (run) spot quick. We kept our foot on the (gas) pedal and kept rolling to be safe,' Shelton said.

"Nobody puts up 18 runs on (Halifax),' Eagles' senior catcher Ryan Peevey said. "The amount of offense early was from pure intensity from the guys -- from pitch No. 1, we were ready to go, unlike some games where we've waited until late to get things going. We were going to find ways to get runs across (the plate).'

FCHS matched a season-best run total set in its 18-0 rout of William Fleming and surpassed the 10-run mark for the third time this season, all in slaughter-rule shortened games.

The Comets, who were seeking their third win this season at Naff Field, tagged Eagles starting pitcher Jared Bridges, a sophomore righthander, for two runs in the top of the first inning, but that 2-0 edge would be the only advantage they would enjoy.

Ryan Yates and Rufus Jeffress had base hits in the inning and William Harris drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

The Eagles responded by sending nine batters to the plate and scoring six runs at the expense of Halifax starter Ryan Powell.

Powell and Comets pitchers Patrick Barton, Chase Wilkerson and Cole all had trouble locating the strike zone. Collectively, they threw 213 pitches -- 118 balls and 95 strikes.

"Our pitchers did not throw strikes; they were not consistent with that,' Halifax skipper Kelvin Davis said. "That's something we've got to work on. I have confidence in those guys that they will bounce back.

"Franklin County took advantage of that -- they got key base hits. They hit the baseball very well, they were up for the game and we just struggled,' Davis said. "Our pitchers let us down tonight, that was it.'

Powell faced 17 batters over two frames -- nine in the first inning and eight in the second -- and was tagged for 10 runs, nine of which were earned, nine hits and two walks. He did not strike out a batter.

Powell's showing was nothing like his complete-game winning effort against the Eagles in the Comets' 6-1 victory earlier in the season. In that game, he did not surrender a hit after the third inning, he retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced and yielded one walk.

"These guys are good at bouncing back after seeing (a pitcher) the first time. We did that last year against Bivens (GW standout righthander Blake Bivens) and we did that against a couple of other guys last year,' Shelton said.

"...The key is being comfortable at the plate, and our hitters were comfortable because they knew they'd seen (Powell) before,' Shelton said.

"We were patient at the plate, we got deep into at bats. Once we saw every (pitch) that (Powell) had, we'd wait to see certain pitches and when we got them, we'd take them where they were pitched,' Peevey said.

"Good things happen when you hit the ball hard,' Peevey said

The score was 10-2 when Barton replaced Powell to start the third inning after the Eagles responded to their early deficit by scoring six runs in the bottom of the first and four more in the last of the second.

"We wanted to see a lot of pitches. We wanted their pitchers to throw a lot of pitches. We asked each other in the dugout, 'What pitches were you seeing' (after each at bat),' Scalf said.

In the first inning Peevey, Drew Moorman and Jessy Pendleton drove in runs for the Eagles with singles and Chad Huston also collected a base hit, but the highlight of the frame was a two-run double by designated hitter Ryan Brewer, who was batting seventh in FCHS's order.

In the second inning, the Eagles took advantage of one-out singles by Scalf and Moorman, a sacrifice fly by Huston, an RBI double by Bridges and a base hit by Brewer.

The Comets were able to manufacture runs, but they could not keep the Eagles off the scoreboard. The count was 10-4 after a two-run third that featured a Nicholas Anderson single and an RBI base hit by Jeffress.

Halifax scored twice in the top of the fourth when the bottom of its line-up, batters Cole and Andrew Hamlett opened the inning with a double and a single off Bridges.

Anderson drove in a run on fielder's choice and Harris plated a run with a base hit to rightfield.

But FCHS's defense pulled Bridges out of the frame with a unique double play. Eagles shortstop Brett Simmons cut Brandon Barbour's throw to third and he fired to Scalf as he and first baseman Logan Alger caught Harris in a rundown between second and first.

Once the out was recorded, Alger fired a strike to Peevey at the plate for a putout of Anderson to end the inning.

In the bottom of fourth, Franklin County pushed the spread to 14-6 when Scalf belted two-out, three-run home run to leftfield off of Barton.

Consecutive walks to Peevey, Moorman and Huston followed before Halifax was forced to change pitchers just to get out of the inning.

The Comets scored their last two runs in the top of the fifth. An Eagles' error, a walk, a base hit by Barton and a walk to Tristan Howerton with the bases loaded produced the first of those runs and ended Bridges' tenure on the mound.

Lefthander Dylan Turner came on in relief with no outs and coaxed Cole to view a called third strike.

The Eagles traded an out for a run when Moorman snagged Hamlett's sacrifice fly in centerfield, then Turner got Yates to ground out to Alger at first.

Turner would complete his two innings of work in the top of the sixth by striking out Jeffress -- he caught the Comets' leftfielder looking at the last strike -- with a runner on first.

Shelton said Turner has become a "holder' on the Eagles pitching staff -- a pitcher who bridges the gap between the starter and the closer -- a role that's performed by Pendleton.

"Dylan really saved us for (Saturday's game against PH). I didn't do him any favors by putting him in with the bases loaded (in the fifth inning), but he got us out of it, and we came in and scored a few more runs,' Shelton said.

In the fifth, FCHS scored three runs as Scalf and Moorman each drew a walk with the bases loaded and Peevey drove in a run with a base hit.

Jeffress paced the Comets with two hits, while Yates, Anderson, Harris, Barton, Cole and Hamlett each recorded one.

Peevey paced the Eagles with three hits, while Scalf, Moorman, Huston, Brewer and Pendleton each registered two hits and Bridges collected one.

Bridges walked four and gave up eight hits in four innings pitched. He was responsible for eight runs, four of which were earned. He struck out four.

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