Boyd was stellar on the mound|Southside’s ace tabbed 2009 WDN Pitcher of the Year

Published 5:34 am Sunday, July 5, 2009

Staff Writer

An opposing coach once called Eric Boyd “just plain nasty.” He likes to consider himself “gritty.” Maybe
another name will catch on for him — Pitcher of the Year.
The graduating senior from Southside has been named the Daily New’s POY after completing a successful campaign with the Seahawks that saw the team finish first in the Atlantic Conference and secure its first playoff berth ever.
Boyd did his part as the team’s ace, going 8-1 with seven complete games on the season. The crafty righthander racked up 71 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched. He gave up 22 earned runs all season for a 2.38 ERA.
For a high school pitcher, Boyd had a varied repertoire, including a nasty, biting curveball that he could throw from “12 to 6” or cut across the plate. He had four solid pitches: a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, circle changeup and that tough curveball.
As a pitcher, Boyd said he falls somewhere between the overpowering flamethrowers, i.e. Justin Verlander, and the off-speed wizards, i.e. Jamie Moyer.
“I just want to give my team a chance to win every time I step on the mound,” said Boyd.
Williamston head coach Hank Tice simply called him, “The best pitcher we faced.”
“And we saw some good competition,” said Tice, whose Tigers finished second in the Atlantic Conference after losing the last game of the regular season to Southside. The win, which propelled the Seahawks to first-place in the conference and a No. 1 seed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class-1A baseball tournament, was anchored by a strong starting performance from Boyd.
Boyd that he enjoys pitching in big games, like the win over Williamston.
“I actually like the pressure situations,” he said. “I like it when it’s all on me.”
As the season progressed, Boyd was asked to carry more of the workload.
“He became our go-to guy,” said Southside head coach Red Lewis. “We really depended on him.”
The journey from reliever to spot starter to staff ace really started for Boyd when he joined the team as a freshman four years ago. At the time, pitcher wasn’t even his first position — shortstop was.
Boyd said he was named Southside’s every day shortstop his freshman year basically out of necessity. The program couldn’t even field a junior varsity team.
He rarely pitched his freshman and sophomore seasons, but still made the all-conference team in his second year as a shortstop.
By his junior year, Boyd was pitching every third day and coming in in relief situations, but he really didn’t take the reins of the staff until midway through his senior campaign.
Boyd was quick to share the credit with his catcher, Kevin Sparks, and his pitching coach, David Hines, when told he had been chosen as the Pitcher of the Year.
“I give a lot of credit to Kevin. I maybe shook him off three or four times all year,” Boyd said. “We kind of worked together.”
And, he said, the potent Seahawks offense kept him in a lot of games.
“Fortunately, the offense put up enough runs to where I still came out the winner, even when I felt like I didn’t pitch that good,” he said.
An offense that he definitely contributed to out of the leadoff spot every game. As the spark plug for the Seahawks, Boyd hit for a .413 average, with a .543 OBP.
In fact, at the beginning of the season, Boyd told his parents that he wanted to make the Daily News’ All-Area Team as a sweethitting, slick-fielding shortstop.
But the Pitcher of the Year honor will work, too, he said.
Boyd seemed genuinely shocked when he received the news.
“Wow,” he shouted, before pausing. “That is pretty cool.”
After he had a minute to think about the honor, he said, “There are a lot of guys in the area that are really good pitchers. To win this award, knowing that those guys are out there, that’s a pretty great accomplishment.”
Boyd, 18, of Chocowinity, hopes to continue playing ball, but at the time his mind is focused on joining the National Guard. He will ship off for basic training in October.
Boyd plans to enroll at East Carolina University when he gets back from the Guard, and might try out for the club baseball team.