After an appearance in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs last season, Forsyth Central opened up their season at home on Monday night and fell by a score of 3-1 to North Oconee in a game that featured two of the top high school pitchers in the entire country.
According to PerfectGame.org, North Oconee’s Kumar Rocker is the top ranked junior in the nation while Central’s Ethan Hankins is the third ranked pitcher and fifth overall player. And each is committed to Vanderbilt University.
While each pitcher went just two innings, both displayed why they are such highly-touted prospects.
Hankins was perfect in the first inning and then ran into some trouble in the second. Despite allowing just one hit in the inning, he threw two wild pitches and the defense committed two errors, allowing two runs to score.
In two innings of work, Hankins threw 31 pitches, struck out three, allowed one hit and two unearned runs.
“I think I did fine,” Hankins said. “I hit my spots well, and I need to work on locating my changeup better, but I think overall I did fine.”
On the other side, Rocker shined. In his two innings on the mound he allowed one hit while striking out three. And at the plate he was even better, going 4-for-4 with three doubles, a single, and an RBI.
“He’s very smooth, threw strikes,” Central Coach Kevin McCollum said. “It’s early in the year and I think that’s what you wanna see out of your guys this early in the year. He’s got good command. It’s good to see pitchers like that. I think that’ll only help our hitters down the line.”
Luke Sutko drove in the Bulldogs’ only run with an RBI-double in the third inning, cutting the Titans’ lead to 2-1.
The Bulldogs threatened again in the bottom of the sixth. With two on and two out, the Titans’ Connor Long struck out Greg Tasos to end the inning.
“We need to work on the smaller things,” Hankins said. “We did all the big things right, but we gotta work on putting the ball on the ground and making the smaller plays, which in the end of the game is gonna matter more.”