BAILEY – With two well-known facts firmly ingrained in their heads, the Rocky Mount High Gryphons took the field Monday night.
One had to do with their past. The other with their future. But both were connected.
The Gryphons lost four days ago in the season finale to No. 4 Southern Nash. On Monday, they faced the same team needing to win in order to keep their season alive.
The 6-2 victory in the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament didn’t exactly make up for the loss four days earlier, but it was a direct effect of the Senior Night defeat.
“There’s no motivation like self defense,” Southern Nash coach Jeff Flowers said.
For at least one more day, No. 5 Rocky Mount (9-13) lives on, because one loss and the Gryphons’ season is finished. That’s the result of the regular-season defeat at the hands of Southern Nash.
The Gryphons could have finished with the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, but instead fell to the No. 5 seed. With that seeding comes a daunting task: Win the entire tournament or go home earlier than anyone on the team wanted.
“That’s the name of the game right now,” Rocky Mount coach Kent Cox said.
From the very beginning, Rocky Mount played like it had something to lose – nearly as much as Southern Nash (6-13) played like it had nothing to gain.
Southern Nash can only miss the NCHSAA 3-A state tournament if Rocky Mount wins the Big East Conference Tournament.
Gryphons second baseman Andy Morris didn’t wait long to ignite Rocky Mount’s offense. Morris took just one strike before doubling into left-center field.
He eventually scored following a single by Jeremy Johnson, who scored three batters later on a bases-loaded walk by Chandler Clontz.
Rocky Mount could have had even more in the inning but stranded the bases loaded.
“We came out firing and wanted to score as many runs as we could and jump on them,” Rocky Mount catcher Collin Watson said.
Johnson, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI, scored again in the fifth inning just ahead of Watson, who also went 3-for-4 and stole three bases. Spenser Ramsey’s home run to left field in the seventh was just insurance.
“This sent a big statement,” Cox said. “They showed up with a guy who almost threw a perfect game against us last time, and we knocked him around the ball park like he was just a regular guy.
“It’s a great response, and it’s a good statement. But it doesn’t really mean a whole lot if we can’t get one (tonight).”
Southern Nash pitcher Zack Parris carried a perfect game into the seventh inning the last time the two teams played at Southern Nash High School.
Rocky Mount will play No. 1 seed Wilson Hunt tonight. The Gryphons defeated Wilson Hunt in the second matchup of the regular season behind a two-hitter by Will Edwards.
While the Rocky Mount offense started fast, the Southern Nash offense couldn’t finish.
The Firebirds stranded at least one runner on base in the final four innings and twice were thrown out at home. In the third inning, center fielder Tevin Boykin tried to steal home and was thrown out to end the inning.
In the fifth, Clay Whitley was thrown out on a close play at home after a relay from left field.
“We didn’t get any calls on the bases,” Flowers said.
Rocky Mount High 6
Southern Nash 2
RMH 200 021 1 – 6 12 1
SN 010 000 1 – 2 5 2
WP: Jeremy Johnson (6IP, 2R, 2ER, 5H, 4BB, 10K); LP: Zack Parris (6IP, 6R, 6ER, 12H, 2BB, 1K).
2B: Parris (SN), Andy Morris (RMH); 3B: Johnson (RMH); HR: Spenser Ramsey (RMH).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or at email@example.com