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Collins sees promise, need for quick improvement in Northern Nash baseball

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Northern Nash's Tyler Garner watches the ball bounce away after attempting to make a sliding catch on Wednesday during the game against East Wake at Northern Nash High School.

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BY SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Northern Nash baseball team, thought coach Bard Collins, came out a little bit flat on Wednesday evening at home against East Wake, an eventual 12-3 loss. 

The Knights (2-2), after a comeback victory over SouthWest Edgecombe on Tuesday, were a bit sluggish in warmups, he thought, and made several two-out errors that led to extra chances and extra runs for the Warriors, who scored four runs in the fourth inning to break a 1-1 tie.

The good news: There haven’t been too many days like that on this young season.

“I would say today was actually the worst game,” Collins said. “Like today, we gave up what 15? 16 hits? We couldn’t overcome their bats today. That’s been uncharacteristic of us this year, over the last few ball games. We’ve been playing really clean ball, but today it caught back up with us.”

Both victories for the Knights this season have come against SouthWest Edgecombe, both of which have added up to the total amount of wins Northern Nash had all of last season, when Collins was tasked with trying to replace eight starting seniors from the team in 2016.

This year, they’ve been jumpstarted by a young but improving outfield, where the starting left, center and right fielders on Wednesday against East Wake were all underclassmen, including freshmen Travis Gamache and Carson Ashman, who went 1-for-2 on Wednesday with a successful sacrifice bunt in the nine-spot that led to the Knights’ first run. 

“One thing I’m happy about, a big improvement, has been the outfield play — big strides in that area,” Collins said. “We went to youth for the outfield, and we’re going to go through some growing pains, but they’ve stepped up.”

Senior Aaron Gerlach, who entered the game with a .444 average, started against the Warriors, working through five innings in which he allowed seven hits and six runs, though only two of them were earned.

His 6 ⅔ innings against SouthWest Edgecombe earned him a win earlier in the season; he and Ben Heacox are the two seniors doing the heavy lifting for the Knights.

“They’ve been great this year so far,” Collins said.

Another upperclassmen, Connor Davenport, was behind the plate Wednesday at catcher, a replacement for Silas Gonzalez, now a member of Air Force’s baseball program. Entering the game, he had five hits in 10 at-bats.

Northern Nash will head to West Johnston on Friday for a double-header as a final tuneup before the Big East schedule starts on Monday, which, for the Knights, will start with a home game at 7 p.m. against Wilson Hunt, which finished second last season in the regular conference season.

“We know what we need to go in and work on tomorrow,” Collins said. “We’ve got to get a lot better real quick, ‘cause we’re going to see much better teams with much better pitching, but that’s the reason we’re going through what we’re going through now, just have to get those young guys some much-needed experience.”

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