SOUTH BOSTON — Tunstall High School head baseball coach Barry Shelton said he was not thinking about anything big when his team squared off against Halifax County High School in Friday night’s Piedmont District Tournament championship game in South Boston.
“We have not had a lot of success against Halifax,” Shelton pointed out.
“They have actually stuck it to us pretty well. I was just hoping we would play well and be in the ballgame.”
Tunstall High School did more than that — much more.
The Trojans (19-4) topped Halifax County High School 9-4 and took home the Piedmont District title.
“It means a whole lot to us to win this ballgame,” Shelton remarked.
“I told our guys before the game tonight I wanted this to be our first game of the regionals. If we were going to do anything starting next week we need to play well tonight against a great ballclub. I told them if we could do that it would really help us next week.”
The Trojans rang up a 9-0 lead on Halifax County High School after four-and-half innings in an uncharacteristic game for the Comets in which they committed six errors and stranded 13 runners on the base paths.
The Comets did not go down quietly, rallying to plate four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and threatening to score in the final two innings, getting two runners on base in the sixth inning and loading the bases in the seventh inning before coming up short.
“We played a really good team that was coming in hot,” said Comets head coach Kenneth Day after the loss that dropped the Comets’ record to 20-2.
“They’ve been on fire lately, and playing really well. We knew we had our work cut out for us.”
Day said there was no lack of focus on the part of his players heading into the game.
“They [Tunstall High School] just got some big hits when they needed to, and we made some bad decisions and had some bad execution on some parts,” Day explained.
“At least we fought to come back. We’re going to clean up the mistakes and we’re going to be fine next week when we start the regionals. We've just got to execute and play well.”
Leading 1-0, the Trojans rallied for five runs in the top of the third inning to break the game open with a 6-0 lead. The Trojans added three runs in the fifth inning to gain the nine-run cushion, but the five-run third inning was the key inning.
“Our offense got to clicking early and got us some runs, and that helped us get a lot of confidence,” Shelton said.
“I have the utmost respect for Halifax and their baseball program. Year-in and year-out they are very tough to beat. This is a tough win to get out of here with. We’re very happy.”
Tunstall High School took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Seth Bonar walked and scored on a two-out single from Hunter Yeatts. The Trojans broke the game open with five runs in the top of the third inning, two of them coming on a two-run homer by Yeatts, who led his team with a 3-4 effort at the plate and three RBIs.
Three more runs in the top of the fifth inning, two of them coming on run-scoring hits from Dylan Young and Yeatts, put the Trojans up 9-0.
Halifax County High School battled back to score four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut the deficit to five runs at 9-4. Tyler Mabe reached base with a walk and Dylan Clark followed with a double, sending Mabe to third base. Shaun Perkins walked to load the bases.
A sacrifice fly to rightfield by Troy Ferrell plated Mabe for the first run, and a hit by Drew Harlow scored Clark. Joey Duffer's bases-loaded single later in the inning scored a pair of runs to make the score 9-4.
Halifax County High School got two runners on base in the sixth inning when Clark walked and Ferrell followed with a double with two out, but failed to score. In the seventh inning, the Comets loaded the bases with two out, and again failed to score.
Tunstall High School had 10 hits in the contest, with Yeatts leading the Trojans with three hits and Grant Elliott and Young following with two hits each. Bonar, Logan Pritchett and Thomas Barker had one hit each.
The Comets had a dozen hits in the game, with Perkins and Harlow leading the team with two hits each. Mabe, Clark, Ferrell, Alex Lowery, Will Wallace, Joey Duffer, Zack Lowery and Jackson Dunavant all had one hit.
Tunstall High School will host Lord Botetourt High School on Thursday in its first game of the Class 3 Region D Tournament.