As Southern Nash baseball coach Jeff Flowers talked to his counterpart from Northwest Guilford earlier this season, he was shocked by what he heard.
The opposing coach was praising him, and the surrounding schools, for just how good the baseball is around the Twin Counties.
The statement surprised Flowers because, like the Big East Conference, baseball in Eastern North Carolina always has been top-heavy.
However, and specifically for the Big East, there will be plenty of chances for anyone to take the title this season.
“There’s a lot of teams that have pieces, but there’s nobody that has all the pieces,” said Flowers, whose team graduated 10 seniors and only has a pair this year.
In the past, Wilson Hunt, Rocky Mount High and Nash Central have dominated the conference.
But the Warriors and the Gryphons are rebuilding, and the Bulldogs are breaking in a new coach, Tony Guzzo, who coached at Nash Central Middle School last year after decades in the college ranks.
“It (has) been top heavy in the past, but I think there’s more parity this year than there (has) been in the league,” Northern Nash coach Eddie Loesner said. “I think it’s going to make for an exciting season that’s probably going to come down to the last game.”
Because of that, all the Big East coaches are trying to make the claim that they have the toughest nonconference schedule.
Bring it up with one coach, and he might laugh off another coach’s claim to the distinction.
“My philosophy has always been to play tough teams early,” Loesner said. “We try to play at least one or two of those games on the road, just to kind of see what your team is made of.
“You can’t get a good measuring stick playing teams that you’re better than.”
As teams make adjustments to each other and the new-look Big East Conference, batters will continue to have to make adjustments.
Due to rule changes that enhance safety and require high school players to play with less explosive bats, pitching will be at even more of a premium then before. As a result, batting numbers should lag behind pitching at least in the early season.
A solid group of arms on each team should make the Big East even more of a pitcher’s league. Loesner said that the majority of the teams in the league have at least two good pitchers.
Some teams have even more.
“We have back-to-back-to-back lefties we can throw at teams, and that’s a blessing at the high school level,” Rocky Mount High coach Kent Cox said of his lefty trio of Will Edwards, Jeremy Johnson and Cody Smith. “All three can do an outstanding job for us, and we have other kids that can throw, too. The strength of our team is definitely the pitching.”
Nash Central returns Tyler King, the Big East Pitcher of the Year last season, and Northern Nash’s two young arms, Derrick Carter and Jacob Green, return with another year of experience.
“The league is going to be dominated by pitching,” Loesner said. “With the bats and the quality of arms, and the depth of pitching we have in the league, I don’t see a whole lot of high-scoring games – at least in the conference.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com