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Gryphons earn share of Big East title with win over Knights

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Rocky Mount High pitcher David Harrison delivers against Northern Nash on Friday at Northern Nash High School.

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by Josh Walfish
Sports Writer

Friday, April 29, 2016

David Harrison hasn’t received much run support in recent weeks — not that he’s needed much help.

The junior tossed two gems earlier in the season against the Wilson schools to help Rocky Mount High win, 1-0. On Friday, the Gryphons gifted him a two-run lead, which was more than enough to lead Rocky Mount High to a share of the Big East championship with a 2-0 win over Northern Nash.

Coach Pat Smith was particularly excited about how his pitcher is dealing with the pressure being thrust upon Harrison when he is on the mound.

“I’m proud of him wanting to put this team on his shoulders and carrying us,” Smith said. ”That’s a heavy load sometimes. ... Anytime you throw shutouts you’re doing a great job. We’re proud of him and glad he’s on our side.”

Harrison struck out nine batters — including five of the last six hitters he faced — and scattered three hits over the course of his fourth complete-game shutout in his last five starts.

One of the keys to Harrison’s success has been the N.C. State commit’s control over his changeup and his ability to use it as a weapon late in the count. That offspeed pitch kept the Northern Nash hitters off balance all night with only one hard-hit ball leaving the infield.

He said he doesn’t read too much into the close games he has been on the mound for, pointing to the fact he tends to pitch against the better teams on Rocky Mount High’s schedule.

“We’ve been playing good teams and we just need to learn how to get through the good teams,” Harrison said. ”It’s been pressure but I haven’t felt a lot of pressure. I’m just playing my game and my teammates have backed me up every game and I just go out and throw the best game I can throw.”

Harrison was only slightly better than Northern Nash starter Chad Nelms, who had 10 strikeouts and surrendered four hits in his seven innings on the mound. Nelms simply took advantage of a Gryphons’ squad not being picky at the plate and digging themselves into terrible counts.

Smith said it takes experience for a team to recognize the good pitches from the bad ones, and that his team simply doesn’t have the number of reps necessary at the moment. Harrison agreed the team has had poor pitch selection, but said the team just needs to convert their practice success to the field during games.

“We’re just swinging at balls, swinging at too many high pitches and watching too many strikes,” Harrison said. ”We knock the cover off the ball in practice, we just have to translate that into the game.”

Rocky Mount High’s (12-8, 6-4) two runs came courtesy of timely hits, something Northern Nash couldn’t produce Friday. In the third inning, Logan Pearce hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that scored Jamar Ellis on the sacrifice fly, and in the next inning, Harrison laced a single into right field that scored Forrest Bell from second. 

The Knights (9-11, 6-4) finished the game 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, stranding runners at third on three occasions.

“We know that when you’re facing a pitcher like Harrison, it’s going to be hard to scrounge up runs,” Northern Nash coach Bard Collins said. ”We both had equal amount of chances to score, but they took advantage of them better than we did.”

Despite the loss, Northern Nash earned a share of the Big East regular-season title with Rocky Mount High and Wilson Hunt, which defeated Wilson Fike on Friday. The Gryphons earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament by virtue of their 3-1 record against the Knights and Warriors. Northern Nash earned the No. 2 seed by finishing 2-2 against their two co-champions, leaving Hunt to host Southern Nash on Monday.

Rocky Mount High 2

Northern Nash 0

RMH 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 — 2 4 2

NN    0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 1

WP: David Harrison (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 9 K, 1 BB)

LP: Chad Nelms (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 10 K, 3 BB)

Josh Walfish can be reached at 407-9952 or jwalfish@rmtelegram.com

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