The Halifax County High School baseball team had already secured a spot in the Northwest Regional Tournament by winning the Western District regular season championship, but before the regional tournament began, the Comets hosted the Western District Tournament.
The three tournament games took place in one day, with Halifax taking on GW at 10 a.m. in the first game of the day. Charlottesville and Amherst would follow the first game, and the championship game would take place in the late afternoon.
Halifax struggled to get past GW in their semifinal matchup, going down 4-0 to the Eagles in the game. The Comets came back and were down 4-3 in the final inning of play. Halifax was able to score two runs in the final frame to take the 5-4 win and move on to the championship.
In the second semifinal, Amherst beat Charlottesville 2-1 to set up the 4 p.m. championship game against Halifax. The Comets had defeated Amherst twice in the regular season, but Halifax knew how tough the Lancers were, with many people believing that Amherst was the team to beat coming into the season.
The championship game was exciting, with offense all around as the two teams combined to score 23 runs in the game. Kelvin Davis hit a grand slam, and Casey Waller had three hits for the Comets in the championship game.
The Comets were down 12-9 heading into the final at bat, and quickly had two outs against them. With Halifax down to their last out in their last at bat, they mounted a comeback to try and capture the Western District Tournament title.
Waller walked, followed by two more walks by Len Wentz and Keith Lee to load the bases for Halifax. Curtis Duffer stepped to the plate and ripped a shot into the gap in left center field that scored Waller and Wentz. Head coach Frosty Owens never hesitated sending Lee to the plate to try and score the tying run, but two perfect relay throws to the plate would get there in time and Lee was out at the plate, ending the game with Amherst winning the tournament championship 12-11.
Although the Comets would have liked to win the Western District Tournament so they would be able to host a regional game, Halifax was still in the regional tournament via their regular season title, so their focus switched quickly.
Halifax opened up the Northwest Regional Tournament against Northside out of Roanoke. The game took place at Amherst, and it was another slow start for the Comets as the fell behind 6-1. At this point in the playoffs it was win or go home for the teams, so Halifax had to mount a comeback if they wanted to stay in the hunt for the state championship.
“I remember the pitcher from Northside was a left-hander, and they had us down, but we rallied after we got into the middle and late innings. We just didn’t give up, and once we won that game I think that kind of crystalized in our minds that we could go very very far,” Lee said.
Halifax cut the Northside lead to one at 6-5 in the top of the third, but a pitching battle ensued with the score remaining the same all the way until the top of the seventh inning.
In the top of the seventh Lee singled, Davis walked and Jackie Crockett was hit by a pitch to load the bases for the Comets. Chris Cole came to the plate and drew a walk that scored Lee to tie the game. Crook Robertson was up next, and Robertson laid down a bunt to score Davis and give the Comets the 7-6 lead. Robertson had attempted a bunt earlier in the game that resulted in an inning ending double play just two innings prior. Coach Owens obviously believed in Robertson to come through in that situation, and credit to Robertson for shaking off the last at bat to come through for his team.
Cole came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, and he gave up one hit, but he was able to hold on and get the win for the Comets. With the win, Halifax advanced to the Northwest Regional Championship game to face Potomac.
Potomac was the defending state champion and was the team that knocked Halifax out of the playoffs the previous season. The Comets were looking for payback and a berth in the state tournament.
Halifax exploded offensively against Potomac, compiling 18 hits, seven extra base hits and two home runs en route to a 20-6 win. Crockett started the game for Halifax on the mound, giving up three hits and one run in three innings of work. It was Crockett’s third win in his last five decisions.
The win gave Halifax their fourth state tournament appearance in the last five years, and they were set to meet Lake Braddock in the state semifinals. The game was played in Fairfax, so the Comets and their fans had quite the ride to play the game. The game was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but a massive storm rolled in and postponed the game. The field was in such bad condition that they were unable to play on Wednesday as well. Halifax was stuck in Fairfax for two extra days, but they were able to use their time to go to the movies as a team, and they also helped get the field ready for the game after the rain. To stay in the swing of things, the Comets were allowed to use facilities close to them to work out and keep loose.
Thursday, May 31, Halifax was finally able to get going against Lake Braddock and rolled to a 13-2 win. The Comets hit four home runs in the game, with Duffer’s grand slam being the biggest. Crockett, Robertson and Davis each hit home runs in the game also. Halifax exploded for nine runs in the fourth inning.
Cole started the game against Lake Braddock, and he pitched five innings, giving up one run and striking out five batters. The lone run by Cole was on a passed ball.
The Comets were now set to take on the perennial powerhouse of J.R. Tucker in the state championship game. Tucker was 22-1 on the season, been in the final four of the state tournament for six of the last eight years and had won four AAA state championships.
Tucker also had former NBA player and current analyst for the NBA on ESPN, Tim Legler playing third base for them, and several other players that were committed to big time universities to play college baseball.
On June 2, 1984, the AAA state championship game took place at Highland Springs High School outside of Richmond.
The Comets reeled off 10 hits and four home runs in the game. Davis hit two long balls in the game, Robertson and Crockett hit the other two for the Comets. Crockett got the start on the mound for Halifax, pitching the first three innings, and then Cole came in to pitch the final four innings. Tucker mounted a slight rally in the last inning, scoring two runs to make the score look closer than it was, but Halifax would win the game 7-4 and capture the schools’ first team state championship.
Two players excelled in the state tournament in 1984. Cole pitched 9 1/3 innings in the state tournament, giving up only five hits, and four runs while striking out nine batter. Davis hit .714 in the state tournament, going 5-7 with four runs batted in, scoring six runs and hitting three home runs in two games. Great pitching, combined with great hitting is a recipe for success.
“It all kind of gelled together, and we got hot at the right time, and the rest is history,” Cole said. Grayson Throckmorton put it simply. “It was unbelievable.” No matter how you put it, the Comets had done something that will forever be remembered.
Part three of the three part series will cover the reactions from around the county, as well as the players and their feelings about how the state championship has been a part of their lives.
This quote from The Gazette shortly after the Comets won the title still holds true today. “In one way or another, so many have had a hand in this accomplishment, and all can take pride in it. Pride? We’d burst if we were any prouder, and we know we safely speak for every citizen of Halifax County and South Boston when we say this pride permeates the entire community. These guys are champs, real champs. And not just on the field, but off the field as well. They have conducted themselves as gentleman throughout, during the bad times as well as the good. These Comets of 1984 are true champions, and what they have accomplished will be remembered with fondness for all of time.”