Nash Central knocks off Rocky Mount in prep baseball's opening day

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Nash Central's Hunter Robinson pitches to Rocky Mount High on Wednesday at Rocky Mount High School.


Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Big East or Eastern Plains, February opener or summer state tournament game, Nash Central vs. Rocky Mount baseball is a matchup that awakens the competition in Bulldogs coach Willie Langley.

So with a 5 p.m. first pitch from Rocky Mount’s freshman pitcher Evan Hart to Nash Central leadoff man Payton Bass at Rocky Mount High School on Wednesday, the 2018 high school baseball season was underway, and Langley had that familiar feeling back, even with this being his team’s first in their new 2-A conference.

“It wouldn’t matter if we played in July, it’s Rocky Mount and Nash Central baseball,” he said. “Always important -- they’re our biggest rival. It’s always intense when we play over here.”

The Gryphons scored first, with three runs in the bottom of the third, but that’s all the offensive production they’d gather, as Nash Central scored a run a-piece in the final four innings for a 4-3 victory to start off the season.

It goes down for Nash Central (1-0) as a non-conference win, something that still sounds off to Langley -- an adjustment that figures to be a theme this season for the Bulldogs.

“I feel like, honestly, because we’re playing Rocky Mount twice, Northern twice, Southern twice, then my conference schedule, I feel like we’re playing two full conference schedules,” he said. “I think it’s going to benefit us. But I do miss the Big East, I’m not going to lie.”

Should the newcomers in the Eastern Plains make waves in this inaugural season, it might be because of a deep and experienced pitching staff.

Senior Chris Godwin started the game, leaving after three-plus innings with a 3-0 deficit. Hunter Robinson, a junior, pitched the next 3 1/3 and, after leaving with the bases loaded with one out for Rocky Mount in the bottom of the seventh, he made way for junior Chandler Padgett, who struck out Ben Sieracki and Victor Ward for the victory.

“We’re deep,” Langley said. “We’re deep arm-wise. Several other guys that could have thrown tonight.”

On the other side, the Gryphons (0-1), might end up with some nice pitching depth, but they certainly won’t have the type of experience the Bulldogs will enjoy.

In Carter Varnell’s first varsity coaching season, he trotted out freshman Evan Hart for his first career start. In relief for Hart after a stellar scoreless first three innings was sophomore Connor Powell. The assumed ace, said Varnell, who didn’t pitch because of arm soreness but played third base, is Sieracki, a sophomore.

And to catch all those young arms was freshman Kyle Rich, who was ejected in the sixth inning while at bat for a few words exchanged between him and the umpire. Varnell briefly argued the call but later jokingly explained the rationale to back off, fearing an ejection in his first ever game as a head coach.

“You’re going to see a lot of young arms this year,” Varnell said of the pitching staff. “If we can get what we got out of our freshman starter, we’re going to have a great season. He’s only going to get better as time goes on.”

In the top of the seventh with the game tied at three, Gates Harrell entered and got one out but walked the bases loaded. Joernest Petway relieved him, forcing an infield fly about 10 feet from home plate.

Petway circled under it, but dropped the popup, with the ball skipping to the backstop. With that, Nash Central’s Drifton Padgett saw an opportunity and ran from third to home safely for the game-winning run.

The Gryphons out-hit Nash Central, 12-4, but couldn’t push across another run. Jamar Ellis gathered a hit and an RBI, while Victor Ward and Sieracki knocked in the other two in the third inning.

“I was pleased overall with the performance. A lot of youth. A lot of young guys,” Varnell said. What I told them is -- just learn from it. Correct those mistakes and we can win a lot of ballgames. Those one-run ball games, come out and correct those mistakes and we’ll win a lot of ball games.”

Other prep baseball scores

Corinth Holders 13, Northern Nash 2

Southern Nash 5, SouthWest Edgecombe 1