Sophomore Zach Denton sure waited a long time for his first hit Thursday night.
He played in Nash Central’s junior varsity game against Rocky Mount High, but he caught and didn’t bat to keep his timing accurate.
He started the varsity game as the designated hitter but was 0-for-3 and didn’t knock the ball out of the infield.
Denton’s first hit at Rocky Mount High School was a game-winner.
At the plate with two outs in the top of the seventh and the bases loaded, Denton blasted the first pitch to the base of the left field fence for a double, plating two runners and ending a sloppy rivalry game, 5-3, in favor of Nash Central.
It was a worthwhile delay for Denton, who received a shaving-cream face wash after the game.
“It was really worth it,” Denton said.
After watching the first two batters before him work a pair of two-out walks after falling behind in the count, Denton knew his first pitch was coming across the strike zone.
Despite going 0-for-the game, Denton had looked better in each of his previous three at-bats – to himself and Nash Central coach Tony Guzzo. Denton last swing was a good one.
“We just ended up getting the last break,” Guzzo said. “Anybody can win that game. They certainly deserved to win it at times. It just didn’t happen. ... It was just a really, really good high school ball game."
Nash Central (7-6, 4-2) has won three of its past four games and snapped a short winning streak by rival Rocky Mount (5-8, 2-4), which had won back-to-back games.
“That’s the name of this game,” Rocky Mount coach Kent Cox said. “One hit here or there makes a difference. ... We had our chances, too.
Both teams had opportunities to pull out a victory because of the expected – two talented senior pitchers on the mound.
King and Gryphons’ starter Will Edwards combined to allowed just one earned run through the first six innings and were stronger as the game extended into the latter innings.
King, who likely finished his career 5-0 against Rocky Mount, struck out eight batters after the third inning.
He threw fewer than 100 pitches Thursday and recorded a strikeout on six of the final eight outs of the game. Still, King struggled more than he had all season against the Gryphons’ lineup.
“Nobody has banged him around like they did,” Guzzo said “... He hasn’t been pressed like that before.”
Edwards kept Nash Central off balance by hitting his spots on the outside of the strike zone and then coming back inside when the Bulldogs started to reach.
“They both gave their teams an opportunity to win the ball game,” Cox said. “We had our chances, and Will gave us a great opportunity to win. Tyler did what he needed to do. ... He gave his team a chance to win as well. When you do that, you can’t ask for more than that.”
The two three-year starters combined to allow just five hits from the the fourth inning until the end of the game.
Edwards seemed to wear down in the seventh inning, as his pitch count climbed past 100. He recorded two quick outs with just a runner on first to start the inning but then lost control.
He worked well ahead of both David Sutton and Kyle Taylor – 0-2 – before each earned a full-count walk.
That set the stage for Denton’s first hit.
“It was a sloppy game, but it was a good battle by both sides,” Guzzo said. “Both sides went after each other.
“... It’s not a perfect world. It’s a hard game to play. There are going to be mistakes made, but everybody battled through it."