Rocky Mount High pulled out all the stops Wednesday at Nash Central High School, calling on its ace in the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament. Nash Central’s senior class just wasn’t ready to make its final game on its home field a loss.
Kyle Taylor’s fourth-inning double – the lone extra-base hit in the game – completed the Bulldogs’ comeback, and Nash Central advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament with a 5-3 victory.
“I woke up (Wednesday) morning, and I thought, ‘This is not my last game,’” Taylor said. “I was going to make sure. I was going to do everything I had to do. ... It was a team win.”
No. 4 Nash Central (9-10) has beaten Rocky Mount in five straight games dating back two years and will face top-seeded Northern Nash at 7 tonight at Northern Nash High School.
The Bulldogs made it to that point behind a few heroics from its senior class.
Starter Khalil Macklin allowed three early runs before righting the ship and being relieved by David Sutton, who allowed no hits through the final three innings.
Matt Askew scored a pair of runs, Tyler King drove in a run to cap the third inning, and Taylor finished with three RBI, including the bases-clearing double.
“It was the whole team,” said Macklin, who asked his teammates to pick him up before the game. “Everybody put in and contributed.”
Rocky Mount (7-12) finished just shy as Ben Yates struck out with the bases loaded to end the game. The Gryphons stranded 10 runners on base but couldn’t manage a perfectly timed hit like Taylor did.
“This game is funny like that,” said Rocky Mount coach Kent Cox, who was visibly shaken up after embracing each senior after the game. “Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be. ... We weren’t hitting the ball on the nose, just right at them.”
The Gryphons likely were eliminated from the state playoffs with the loss.
Nash Central will have another chance to move on, knowing that they’ll face another top arm.
“Everybody we face from now on is going to be a good pitcher,” Nash Central coach Tony Guzzo said. “We’re at that time of the year when there aren’t any more bad pitchers. They’re gone. They’ve packed up their stuff. ... You’re going to have to beat an ace every night to win.”