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So far, so good for RMH sophomore Hart

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Rocky Mount High's Evan Hart pitches to Franklinton on Tuesday at Rocky Mount High.

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BY SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Rocky Mount High sophomore Evan Hart has been working on his changeup of late, though he didn’t need it Tuesday night against Franklinton — not after the Gryphons (7-2, 1-0 Big East) gave him a 7-0 lead to work with from the second inning on.

In the first Big East game of the season, Hart went all seven innings in 84 pitches and pounded the strike zone for a total of three hits, seven strikeouts and nine ground ball outs in a 9-0 win, RMHS’s fourth in a row.

It was his third victory of the season over four appearances and 23 innings, and brings his earned run average down from the 1.31 mark he entered Tuesday with.

Statistically speaking, it’s been a near-perfect start for the sophomore after a successful freshman season.

“The biggest thing for him was to get in the weight room immediately,” RMHS coach Carter Varnell said. “He’s long and lanky. We wanted him to put on some muscle weight and really try and get that velocity up. I told him to try and focus on getting his legs stronger so he could drive off that lower half, get that fastball up, and it’s up a couple of miles. But he’s worked, he’s progressed like we wanted him to.”

Against Franklinton, who the Gryphons will face again this Friday, Hart used a healthy mix of mostly fastballs with a few curveballs mixed in. His velocity this season has gotten up to around 82, 83 miles per hour, said Varnell, but hangs around the low-80s when placing the ball is a priority.

“I try not to throw as hard as I can,” Hart said. “I mainly just try and hit my spots, but if I see during a game that I’m hitting my spots pretty well I’ll try and pick it up a little bit.”

Hart’s fastball was level all of Tuesday, including in a 1-2-3 seventh inning where he struck out the first hitter up, then induced a weak popup and ended the game on a swing-and-miss fastball.

Indeed, the changeup was an unneeded luxury Tuesday, but it’s worked in spots this season for Hart, like in the game last week against Nash Central.

“I didn’t really need it much tonight,” said Hart, who played this summer with GameTime Prospects. “But I’ve used it on some of my strikeouts. I try to throw it when I can, because teams probably don’t expect it from last year.”

On offense, the big inning for the Gryphons came in the second, when they plated six runs. Gates Harrell finished 2-for-3 with an RBI while Connor Powell, who started the game with a triple, went 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. Austin Lutrell added a double with two RBIs.

Overall, RMHS collected nine hits, four of which came in that second inning.

After the two-game series with Franklinton, the Gryphons will play two Big East games next week against conference favorite Wilson Fike, which lost for the first time on Tuesday night against Southern Nash.

“We’re looking forward to next week. Obviously, we’ve still got another game against Franklinton, won’t look past that,” Varnell said. “But we’re in a good position to play Fike next week.”

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