2014 SPRING OUTLOOKS: Big East Conference set for 'year of the pitcher'

By Justin Hite

Sports Writer

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The list of names is obvious and recognizable, at least to the dozens of Big East Conference batters that have been sent back to the dugout wondering what else they could have done.

Loaded with experience and talent, the Big East Conference will see a balanced collection of skill. It is something batters will have to deal with all season long and coaches have come to fully appreciate.

“It’s going to be the year of the pitcher,” Rocky Mount High coach Kent Cox said.

The Gryphons are led by a pair of experienced left-handers who consistently are battling each other for the top spot.

Northern Nash’s Jacob Green and Derrick Carter have been No. 1 and No. 2 for the past two seasons, giving first-year coach Leonard Allen a dangerous pair.

Southern Nash has steady senior Christian Arrington, but everyone might be chasing Nash Central’s Tyler King, the favorite to be named conference pitcher of the year after winning the award two years ago.

“There’s a good chance that no one will run away with the Big East,” Southern Nash coach Jeff Flowers said. “... With the pitching, if you play some defense behind it, that’s going to be the team that will win the conference.”

Wilson Hunt and Wilson Fike, who will be led by first-year coach and former Nash Central assistant Buck Edmundson, even have aces of their own who are capable of dominating 

With weather issues keeping teams inside, hitting has lagged behind pitching – as is the case the majority of time. Once the weather warms, there’s still a strong chance that pitching will remain superior.

“With the pitching in our league, it’s going to be tough for the hitters to catch up,” Cox said.

Flowers was in agreement, saying that his team has been forced to resort to small ball and trickery to score runs.

“The offense for a lot of us looks sort of anemic,” he said.

This also leaves the Big East Conference up for grabs. Flowers said that the most important factor on the mound this year will be experience. While the talent is superb, Flowers said that an experienced pitcher won’t be rattled by occasional hits and understands what pitches need to be thrown.

Among the top six starters in Nash County public school baseball, there’s 13 years of experience on the varsity level.

“I think in tight games is when that really shows up to,” Flowers said. “When you have that kid, he’s not as likely to blow up and start walking kids. I really think it’ll be a pitching and defensive league.”

Rocky Mount Academy, which made a run to the NCISAA 2-A state championship series last year, and Faith Christian will square off at the top of the Eastern Plains Independent Conference – just like last year.

The Patriots bring back an experienced team, led by catcher Cody Manning, that has depth on the mound. The Eagles lost their ace Adam Bayless, but coach Pat Smith said the team has two strong pitchers that have stepped up – M.J Jones and Brandon Griffin.

The rivalry between the two teams only intensified last year when they met in the state semifinals.

“Both teams want to win,” said Smith, who considers Faith Christian coach Greg Clifton to be a good friend. “It just makes for a rivalry, if you know what I mean. And we’re both going to be pretty competitive this year.”

Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or jhite@rmtelegram.com