The path from the Rocky Mount High dugout is much more worn than the walkway from the visitors’ dugout at Rocky Mount High School.
Senior pitcher Cody Smith did his best to even out the two Tuesday.
Smith struck out 15 batters in a one-hit complete game, during which he allowed only one run – an RBI walk. Smith struck out or walked 20 of the first 21 batters he faced, and after 124 pitches, the big left-hander had his shoulder wrapped and a smile on his face following the Gryphons’ 5-1 victory.
“He was phenomenal (Tuesday),” Rocky Mount coach Kent Cox said. “... You can’t ask for more. I’m just as tickled to death as I can be about it.”
Smith, who allowed 11 free pases, didn’t find himself in many jams for Rocky Mount (5-7, 2-3 Big East), which has won back-to-back games after losing three straight to start the conference season.
When he found trouble early, catcher Andy Morris bailed him out. Morris completed a pair of strikeout-throwout double plays in the first four innings.
When Smith fell into a jam late after he allowed the first three batters of the sixth inning to reach base, he pulled himself out of the hole.
Smith struck out a batter and induced a ground ball back to the pitcher.
He walked the next batter – one of nine walks and the only run of the game – before striking out Northern Nash right fielder Whit Casper to end the threat.
“You can run up against that one guy every Tuesday or Friday night,” said Northern Nash coach Leonard Allen, whose team has lost two of the past three since its seven-game winning streak was broken. “You’ve got to be ready for that. ... We just haven’t had that timely hit in our two conference losses. We’ve had guys on base, we just haven’t gotten it done.”
During Smith’s previous outing against Wilson Fike, Cox pulled his ace for the seventh inning. But even with more than 100 pitches through six, Cox let Smith finish on Tuesday.
Smith wanted a complete game against Fike, who rallied to beat Rocky Mount, so Cox let him go back to the mound this time.
“I wanted to go out there real bad and try and get the win,” Smith said.
Smith struck out one batter in the ninth, his lowest single-inning total of the night, and waved off his teammates for the final out of the game – a pop-up right back to the mound.
He couldn’t keep his teammates off as they clamored out of the dugout to congratulate him afterward.
“He was resilient, and that’s why he’s going to play at the next level,” Cox said of Smith, who will pitch for Chowan University next year. “He showed that he can pitch at that level. A situation when his back was against the wall, he beared down and did what we had to do to get the outs. That’s all you can ask for. ... For him to do that (Tuesday), that was huge for his confidence, too.”
The Gryphons’ surge of runs came early as Rocky Mount capitalized on an error by Northern Nash (9-4, 3-2).
Rocky Mount recorded two infield hits and reached on an error by catcher Hunter Moore after a three-base error by Casper plated the first run of the game in the second. Blake Helms, Josh Carter, Logan Smith and Will Edwards scored in order with the final two runs coming home after a one-out single by shortstop Forrest Bell.
“We’re starting to gel a little bit, and we are starting to find what’s working for us,” Cox said. “Anybody can beat anybody on any night in this league. ... It is what it is.”