Warriors’ Rice headed to UNC

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Warriors senior pitcher Zach Rice signs commitment papers to play baseball for the University of North Carolina on Monday afternoon at Nansemond River High School.

Nansemond River High School senior pitcher Zach Rice will play college baseball as a member of the Tar Heels after signing a commitment on Monday to suit up next year for the University of North Carolina at Nansemond River High School.

“It was always one of my favorites,” Rice said of UNC.

UNC coaches were impressed with Rice’s junior year, when he was 7-3 on the mound with a 2.46 earned run average and threw 69 strikeouts in 68 innings.

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Warriors head coach Mark Stuffel and Rice’s parents, John and Leila, were among those who attended the signing.

“Anytime you got a kid that signs to any college, it’s great,” Stuffel said. “But to sign to UNC, that’s huge.”

Rice prepares to send a pitch during a game last season.

“Real proud of him,” John Rice said. “He’s worked hard, he’s had a lot of good help from some good guys.”

One of the people John Rice cited was Portsmouth native Jimmy Anderson, a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1999-2002, who is now involved with coaching.

“Through his youth, I would say that Jimmy Anderson helped to mold him as he developed and got older,” the elder Rice said.

He also listed the Warriors coaching staff, including Stuffel and assistant coach Tom Lowe, as well as the head coach and pitching, strength and conditioning coach with the Evoshield Canes baseball program.

“Tom absolutely had an impact on him the last couple of years,” John Rice said. “And his time with the Canes, these last 14 months, his time with Jamie Evans, who’s a national pitching coach, has helped him build strength, get stronger, and throw harder, which is big. And of course, Jeff Petty, owner and operator, essentially, of the Canes, gave him the opportunity to be exposed to schools like North Carolina.”

Zach Rice said the intensity of his play has gained each year.

“Over time, it was really gaining velocity,” he said. “I had never really thrown hard until the last season, so I’d say that was the key.”

Stuffel said Rice currently pitches around 87 to 89 miles per hour.

Rice joins recent Nansemond River graduates Kyle Moore and Brandon Lowe in committing to play for Atlantic Coast Conference teams. Moore and Lowe are in their freshman years at the University of Maryland.

“We only got one more chance, which is next year, because Maryland is jumping the ACC, but it’ll be neat seeing (Rice) hopefully next year throw against Kyle and Brandon up in Maryland.”

Rice already has goals for when he plays as a member of the Tar Heels.

“Hopefully, winning a college world series,” he said. “Just getting better, mostly.”

Despite the exciting college news, his mind has not yet left his high school career.

“We had a good season, and I’m just looking for another good season again this year,” he said.