Pitching was never going to be an issue for Northern Nash this season.
With a stable of arms that included juniors Derrick Carter and Tyler Barrett, first-year coach Leonard Allen knew he had a pitching staff that could carry him to the postseason.
To go beyond the first round – or just defend their regular-season conference title – the Knights will have to find a way to do the basics of baseball.
“One thing we have to work on in our games is getting more hits and getting more runs across the board,” said Allen, who will juggle the lineup to try and spark the offense this week. “We’ve been struggling all season with that a little bit. ... We’ll see what we can do to get a few more runs this week.”
Northern Nash might be the No. 1 seed in the Big East Conference Tournament, which returns tonight after a multi-year absence, but it will be a chance for every team to have another shot at the playoffs.
“It’s a huge wild card,” Southern Nash coach Jeff Flowers said. “... I hope they understand the urgency of it or we’ll be gone.”
No. 6 Southern Nash, which went winless during the regular season, will travel to No. 3 Wilson Fike in the first round of the tournament while No. 4 Nash Central will play host to No. 5 Rocky Mount High in a game that could decide a spot in the state playoffs.
The winner between the Gryphons and the Bulldogs will face Northern Nash, which was no-hit in a five-inning loss in the season finale, on Thursday. No. 2 Wilson Hunt will play host to the winner between Southern Nash and Wilson Fike.
The championship will be decided at the highest remaining seed Saturday. All games are scheduled for 7 p.m.
Only three teams from the conference are guaranteed a spot in the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs, but Rocky Mount coach Kent Cox believes the league will earn a fourth wild-card entrant.
“It’s pretty much survive and advance,” he said. “We know what’s on the line now. ... We know that we have to win the tournament to have a shot to get in the playoffs. We’re going to do what we can.”
Like Northern Nash, Rocky Mount has a deep pitching staff, something that can be a huge advantage in the postseason, when more than two games are played in a week.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Cox said. “... I feel good about that opportunity.”
Even with pitching, it’s ultimately the runs that will matter.
“If we win by a run or half a run, it doesn’t mattter to me, as long as we’re up at the end of the game,” Cox said.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org