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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 make one run stand in victory over Halifax

Monday, April 29, 2013

By TUCKER MCLAUGHLIN JR. - Special to The News-Post

SOUTH BOSTON --Rightfielder Ashley Keith drove in first baseman Taylor Greenway with the game's lone run in the top of the fifth inning Friday as Franklin County shut out three-time reigning Western Valley District softball champion Halifax County, 1-0, in a league match-up.

With the win, its third in a row and its second straight by shutout, FCHS (3-1 in the WVD, 9-5 overall) avenges an earlier season, 3-0 district setback to the Comets at home.

Should both teams win their remaining league games, they would meet in a one-game playoff with the district championship and a berth in the Northwest Regionals resting in the balance.

Such a scenario between the the two teams has occurred three times in league history: in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Halifax is 2-1 in those match-ups, all played in Danville, with its lone loss coming in 2009.

Righthander Hali Saul (7-5) held the Comets (4-1 in the WVD, 10-2 overall) to two hits in tossing her 10th complete game and third shutout of the season. She struck out two and walked three.

Saul relied on a perplexing curveball that was moving in and out of the strike zone, Eagles dugout boss Bryan Forbes said.

"Hali has continued to work. She's finally figured out some of her pitches. She just keeps on battling,' Forbes said.

Keith, a sophomore who in in her first varsity season, has driven in game-winning runs in three games this season.

Keith caught fly balls to stymie Halifax rallies in the fifth and sixth frames.

Greenway slapped a single to rightfield off Halifax freshman righthander Taylor Barnes and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kameron Cundiff.

Keith's base hit traveled past second base and Greenway was able to dash home with the run.

"We made a statement (Thursday) in practice,' Forbes said. "Our assistant coach, F.L.Slough, took a lawn mower, mowed a bull's eye, then went out there and stood on it and said, 'This is what Halifax is wearing on its back, now you have fun throwing targets at it. Whether you get one run or 10 runs, make it a bull's eye.'

"Hali got the bull's eye pitching. We got two bull's eye hits. (Kameron's) bunt moving the runner over was just as important instead of striking out,' Forbes said.

"We did all the things to put pressure on (Halifax). We never let them break through that wall,' Forbes said.

"It was a great high school game. ...We got a break -- that bouncer up the middle,' Forbes said.

Barnes struck out 11, including five of the first six batters she faced, in a two-hit, complete-game showing. She walked one.

Halifax played error-free defense behind Barnes. FCHS committed one defensive miscue in support of Saul.

"The difference (in the game) is that Franklin County got the hit with the runner in scoring position and was able to score,' Comets head coach Melanie Saunders said. "We had runners in scoring position five times and couldn't score. We couldn't get the key hit. That makes the biggest difference. You've got to at least (get one of those baserunners home).'

Halifax also threatened to score in the first and second frames, but was denied by the Eagles.

FCHS made its first threat to score in the top of the fourth when sophomore catcher Mackenzie Chitwood, the Eagles' leading hitter, singled and moved over to second base on a wild pitch. But, Barnrs thwarted the rally with a strikeout.

Separating the Eagles from a playoff match-up against the Comets are two games against Patrick Henry, the first of which is today at home, and match-ups against George Washington-Danville (home) and William Fleming (away).

Halifax has to play PH twice and Danville once.

"We'll work to make sure we get those hits when (runners) are on second. You've got to have the confidence, and take (the ball) to the opposite field and just move the runners. We just didn't do that,' said Saunders who opined that the Comets and thr Eagles "are more-evenly matched than they've been recently.

"Hopefully, we'll get a chance to get back to Franklin County (in a neutral-site playoff game) and play them again,' Saunders said. "But, we've got to get through these other games. We've got to realize what we've got to work on. We've got to stay up and not let this defeat bring us down.'

The Eagles' game against the Patriots is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Benjamin Franklin Middle School softball complex.

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