Garner Cleveland: Sports

Locals help Heels, Pack in World Series quest

With the area college sports focus firmly on the baseball ranks this time of year, two Johnston County natives could play roles for North Carolina and N.C. State in their quests for College World Series berths.

Tate Parrish, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound Smithfield-Selma graduate, is a junior left-handed pitcher for the top-ranked Tar Heels and South Johnston product Logan Jernigan is a sophomore right-hander for N.C. State.

Carolina was the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, while State just missed out on a national seeding and is ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation.

Parrish has made 16 appearances this season, registering two saves for the Heels and hasn’t allowed a run. He’s used as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, primarily to get left-handed batters out.

He’s tied for the team lead in saves with two this season and is holding opponents to a .182 batting average.

Parrish was a two-time all-state selection at Smithfield-Selma.

Jernigan is a 6-foot-3, 201-pound starter for the Wolfpack. He got a start in the ACC tournament in the Pack’s win over Miami and is 1-0 on the season with a 1.07 ERA in 25 1/3 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .196 against him.

SSS vault champion makes all-academic team: Smithfield-Selma High graduate Henry Johnson, another former prep state champion, was one of just 11 athletes named to the Conference USA all-academic men’s track and field team last week. Johnson cleared 16 feet, ¾ inches in the pole vault during an indoor meet this season.

“We are extremely proud of Henry Johnson,” ECU coach Curt Kraft said. “This is what being a student-athlete is all about: excelling at a high level both on the field and in the classroom. Henry has done an excellent job in both. What he has accomplished is what we expect of all of our student-athletes.”

Johnson, the son of David and Christine Johnson of Smithfield, is majoring in business with a concentration in accounting.

Narron Award nominees keep getting better: I play a small part in the annual selection of the Sam Narron Baseball Award and it’s always both a pleasure and great challenge. Every year, I leave the experience with the same thought running through my mind: the nominees cannot possibly get any better than this.

That all sounds good on paper, but they do every year, just like they did this year. So much about this award is right: from the dedication the Narron family has to it – led by Rooster Narron – to the respect the nominating coaches pay to the honor. We had five nominees this year and all five deserve to be seriously considered.

The Narron family set out to have the award honor the Johnston County ideals of the game: dedication, determination and sacrifice. It does exactly that.

But what excites me more is how those ideals show up year after year in so many area baseball players. Players whose only exposure to Sam Narron comes each June when an award is presented in his honor.