Looking to go out with a bang

Published 7:48 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Northside senior ace Brandon Marsh and the Panthers are hoping that this season can be the one they climb out of the shadows of Plymouth and Riverside and bring home a Four Rivers Conference title. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

YEATESVILLE — Last season Northside ace Brandon Marsh looked on as area and Four Rivers Conference rivals Riverside and Plymouth duked it out for the right to advance to the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional finals. This year, he is hoping to get a better view of the game, preferably one that is 60-feet, six-inches away from home plate.
Equipped with a fastball that tops out at 86 MPH and curveball that has more bite than an angry pit bull, the senior standout just might get his wish.
Marsh and the Panthers (4-1, 1-0) took a good first step in that direction on Tuesday as the right-hander fired four no-hit innings against the defending conference and sectional champion Vikings to earn a 10-5 victory.
Playing in a loaded conference with perennial powerhouses Riverside and Plymouth, winning the Four Rivers will be a tough task.
“To win this conference, that’s huge. Look at last year, there were two teams playing for the right to go to the East,” Marsh said. “This conference is so strong, it’s probably one of the best in Eastern North Carolina.”
At times last season, the Panthers were one of the best teams in Eastern North Carolina themselves. However, there were times where they also looked like one of the worst.
In a season that ran hot and cold like a neurotic faucet, Northside began the year by dropping 12 straight games before it pieced together an incredible winning streak that spanned over seven games and included wins over Riverside and Plymouth.
The key this season is for the team to channel what allowed it to top those two area powers on a consistent basis.
“We just have to our heads positive. We have a lot of talent out here it’s just a matter of keeping our heads up and to keep working hard, but not getting to big-headed at the same time,” Marsh said.
Working hard and staying level-headed shouldn’t be a problem for Marsh, as Northside coach Keith Boyd said, those two traits are the reason why he has been able to become one of the area’s top pitchers.
“The kid has put his heart and soul into baseball. He’s never missed any semesters in the weight room and he has done everything he can to make himself better. It’s a tribute to his desire to play the game that he loves,” Boyd said.  “He’s humble, very humble, and takes coaching well. A kid like that could very well walk around and act like he knows it all but he certainly doesn’t. He listens to everything you have to say and he soaks in knowledge from everyone, not just me or the other coaches.”
That work ethic has led to Marsh being named to the Washington Daily News All-Area first team last season and also earned him spot in the state games.
Often overlooked because of his pitching prowess, Marsh, who stands at roughly six-feet tall and weighs in at about 170 pounds, swings a mean stick from the left side of the plate.
“That’s why he bats in the two hole,” Boyd said. “Right now he’s probably got the second or third highest batting average on the team.”
While his hitting prowess has undeniable value, it’s his ability to baffle hitters in the batter’s box that the Panthers will rely on to make a lengthy postseason run. During the offseason Marsh has took steps to improve his game and both he and Boyd are hoping that it leads to big things in his final season with the school.
“He’s a year older, a year more mature, a year stronger, a year faster and he’s picked up two or three miles per hour on his fastball. I think he looks more relaxed at the plate. The more games you play you can’t help but get better and now that he’s reached his senior year you can just tell all those years he has under his belt are just coming to the surface now,” Boyd said. “The sky is the limit, he’s capable of doing anything.”