David Nash knew he faced a major challenge transferring from Forest Hills to Piedmont High, joining the then-reigning 2013 2A baseball state champs.
Nash, however – a rising junior at the time – says he looked forward to proving he could become a key piece to the Piedmont puzzle.
Many Piedmont teammates were in the same position. Coach Milt Flow and the Panthers had to reload after losing seven seniors in 2013, and they made the jump to class 3A and the Southern Carolinas Conference, home of state powers including Marvin Ridge and Weddington.
Nash established himself as one of the top team’s top offensive and defensive weapons in 2014, batting .296 with two home runs and going 9-3 on the mound with an 0.82 ERA to be named SCC Pitcher of the Year.
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Piedmont (21-10) advanced to the 3A state championship series before falling to Topsail High in the finals.
“David came in and just quietly went about his business and worked as hard as anyone on our team,” said Flow, who has 330 wins in his 19 years as Panthers head coach. “He is the kind of guy that just goes out on the field and let’s his performance speak for itself. His play (last year) really said a lot.”
Nash had 77 strikeouts in 68 innings and just 20 walks last season.
“Playing for Piedmont was everything I expected it to be when I came here, and I really enjoyed becoming a part of this team,” said Nash, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior. “I wasn’t trying to come in and be the new guy who disrupted everything. I just wanted to fit in and help make this team better.”
The Panthers (5-2 through March 24) face a similar challenge this season, as they must replace nine seniors from the 3A state runner-up team a year ago.
Even though he is in only his second year as a Panther, Nash already has emerged as a leader, with fellow seniors Caleb Baucom and Aaron Braswell.
This year’s squad is still finding its identity , said Flow, who hopes the junior class, including Chris Gorczynski, Drew Little, Sam Little and Austin Purser, can step up.
“There’s a lot of guys who have to play bigger roles for this team, but the best thing to do is go out and focus on playing good baseball and not worrying about the expectations,” Nash said. “The expectations of playing for a state championship are going to be there, because that is the standard we have set. But you can’t think about all that stuff and let it overwhelm you.
“Yes, we want to get back to the state championship, but what we’ve done the last two years doesn’t mean anything for this year’s team.”
Nash should play a huge role in that effort: He enters the season as the team’s No. 1 pitcher and is hitting third in the order. He is 2-1 on the mound with 22 strikeouts and just two walks in 18 innings.
He also is hitting .312 with three home runs.
Against West Stanly on March 13, Nash struck out 10 batters in six innings while smashing two home runs. He also had a home run against his former team in a 10-0 win against Forest Hills on March 17.
Nash, son of former Wingate baseball coach Bill Nash, hopes this is just the beginning of his success this season.
David Nash will join his father – now an assistant athletic director and director of the athletic foundation – at Wingate next season. He signed to play for the Bulldogs in November, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I grew up on that campus watching my dad’s teams play and always wanted to be a part of that,” Nash said. “It’s not going to be like stepping into something completely new, because I know so many people there. But I’m looking forward to proving myself at the next level.”
While Nash already has good stuff on the mound – an 86 mph fastball, a good change-up and curve ball – Flow said he just keeps getting better.
“David has it all … but his biggest strength is his knowledge and passion for the game,” Flow said. “When Wingate offered him, he jumped at the chance to play there. But from the minute he signed, he has worked even harder. … That work ethic is what is going to help become an even better player in college.”
But first, Nash said, he wants to enjoy every minute of his final season at Piedmont.
“When I was driving to school today, I was thinking about playing Forest Hills (March 17) and how fast my entire high school career has gone by,” Nash said. “I’m going to try to soak up all the little things I love about high school baseball and help make this last year go as long as possible.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.