Relief pitcher Will Rice of Reagan turned in one of his most masterful performances in a road game against Reynolds earlier this season.
With the game tied, Rice, a senior right-hander, entered in the bottom of the seventh and shut down the Demons. The game went into extra innings and the Raiders scored in their half of the eighth to take a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, however, Rice surrendered a leadoff triple. With no outs, Reynolds had an opportunity to score and tie game again, but it never happened. Rice buckled down and struck out three batters in a row to preserve the victory.
“Will doesn’t mind coming into games when things are tight,” Coach Gary Nail of Reagan said. “He has a mental toughness about him. When he’s out there, the mentality is to get things done. When things don’t go right, he doesn’t stew over it. He learns from it and moves on.”
Rice has firmly established himself as the Raiders fearless closer. During the season, he was 3-0 with two saves. In 29 innings pitched, he had 38 strikeouts with only seven walks. Rice (0.24 ERA) was so effective that it wasn’t until the regular-season finale that he gave up his only earned run.
“What helps more than anything is to stay locked in,” said Rice, who will attend N.C. State as a student. “It’s mandatory that you’re in the game (mentally) with every pitch. That’s because you’re subject to be called on at any time. You have to trust in the pitches you throw and trust in the defense behind you.”
Reagan has enjoyed a fruitful season. Reagan defeated South Caldwell 8-0 last Friday night in the NCHSAA Class 4-A quarterfinals after Rice pitched six innings, and he had seven strikeouts and one walk on 74 pitches.
Rice believes that cohesiveness has served Reagan well this spring.
“We’re a very tight-knit group who trust each other,” he said. “We listen to our coaches and do what it takes to be the best we can be. We try not to get ahead of ourselves. It’s all about staying focused on the task at hand and nothing else.”
Three questions for Rice
Q: Who’s had the most influence in your life?
Answer: Tate Rice (father)
Q: What’s your favorite video game?
Answer: “MLB The Show 19”
Q: Who’s your favorite musical group?
Answer: Old Dominion