Bringing the heat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2023

Harrison Lewis, who has signed to play baseball at UNC, finishing strong senior season at West Forsyth

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

Harrison Lewis isn’t your prototypical high-school baseball pitcher.

In fact, very few major-league pitchers look like Lewis. A senior at West Forsyth, Lewis, who is 6-foot-5, and weighs 265 pounds, is an intimidating force on the mound.

And throwing a fastball at 95 mph, Lewis has parlayed his ability into a college letter-of-intent to play at North Carolina, and depending on how the Major League Baseball Draft goes this summer, he might even be playing professional baseball at a minor-league ballpark later this summer or next spring.

“I feel like the bigger you are the longer you can go into games,” said Lewis, who has recorded more than 100 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons for the Titans. “You just have more you have to give. But I think another thing that it’s given me is just an intimidation factor. A lot of guys just see me up there and don’t really want to face me.”

Lewis is staunchly the No. 1 pitcher for West Forsyth, which finished the regular season 18-8 overall and 10-4 in the Central Piedmont 4-A. West Forsyth defeated Davie County last week in the conference tournament in Mocksville to win the tournament championship for the second straight year.

“I’ve heard from other teams that they definitely prepare for me,” he said. “…They’ll send their guys up, you know, 100 miles an hour and just get their foot down and hit it. But I think teams have to have a different game plan for different pitchers, and I think mine is just get your foot down on the fastball and don’t be late.”

West Forsyth began the NCHSAA Class 4-A baseball tournament this past Tuesday in Clemmons against No. 19 Charlotte Catholic. If it won that game, West Forsyth would play the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 30 Waxhaw Marvin Ridge and No. 3 Northwest Guilford, in Friday’s second round. If West Forsyth plays Northwest Guilford, it will be at Northwest Guilford. If it plays Marvin Ridge, the game will be in Clemmons.

“Most of the time, yes (he can overpower hitters with his fastball),” Lewis said. “I definitely think my fastball is my best pitch, but if I need to, I can start spinning it and that will throw a lot of people off guard.”

According to Lewis, in addition to his fastball, he has a wide arsenal of pitches. He says he throws his curveball at 74-75 mph, a 77-mph slider, and an 80-mph changeup.

“He has become a more well-rounded pitcher this year,” Coach Brad Bullard said. “Everybody knows his fastball. When you’re throwing low-to-mid 90s, you’re going to get a lot of outs in high-school baseball.

“Coming into this year, I told him, and Coach (Austin) Love, we’ve got a different pitching coach this year, but we can’t just live in fastballs. And he has worked so hard on his slider and changeup, and just his all-around game — holding runners, fielding his position. And he has. He was great last year, but he’s even better this year.”

According to, a website that scouts baseball players, they have given Lewis a grade of 9.5, and said his fastball has gone up 14 mph since 2020. Perfect Game also says that his fastball is in the 99.84 percentile.

“Harrison Lewis is a 2023 RHP/1B with a 6-6 265 lb. frame from Winston Salem, N.C., who attends West Forsyth. XL frame with very physical, strong build,” Perfect Game said in his player profile on its website. “Righthanded pitcher, small step into leg lift over rubber, max effort delivery over front side, shorter arm stroke with compact circle and good arm speed to high three quarters slot, fastball peaked at 95 mph and sat low-90s, very good vertical carry on the pitch, showed curveball with developing bite, also flashed a changeup. Developing secondary stuff with very live, physical arm. Very good student, committed to North Carolina.”

Despite his prowess and dominance on the mound, Lewis felt like he had to get in better shape over the past offseason.

“This summer, I heard from a lot of guys that they wanted me to get a little leaner,” Lewis said. “I got up to about 290ish this summer. I was still throwing hard. I was touching 95, but they just wanted to see me get a little leaner.

“So, I went on a big diet. I only ate meat. I went on a carnivore diet. I lost about 30 pounds, and now I’m hovering about 260.”

Lewis believes the weight loss has made him even better.

“I definitely feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m moving a lot better on the mound. Because a lot of pitching is your mobility. I was a pretty flexible guy for as big as I was. I think shedding the extra weight has made me even more flexible.”

His coach has certainly seen that as the season has progressed.

“When you throw 92 to 95 miles an hour, we’re going to go to his fastball. Part of our job is to prepare him for college. And he knows that. You just can’t go to Carolina and throw 92 to 95 mph fastballs. You’re going to get lit up.

“And Harrison knows that. So, I think that’s helped him, as well.”

And Lewis isn’t the only member of the family who is a pitcher. His older brother, Zach, is a redshirt freshman at Appalachian State after transferring from Wake Forest.
“Zach’s in college, and I’m sure that’s helped him as well,” Bullard said. “I’m sure they talk. Harrison’s a smart man. He understands the game of baseball, and he understands what it takes to be successful at the next level.”

In addition to having his brother Zach playing in college, Harrison’s father has become somewhat of an expert in the art of pitching.
Dr. A.J. Lewis is a doctor with Novant Health Valaoras & Lewis OB/GYN, and although his time is limited, he’s learned the science of pitching. A.J. Lewis has traveled the country learning the art of pitching. In addition, he was the pitching coach last season for the Carolina Disco Turkeys, the wooden-bat league team in Winston-Salem. According to Harrison, A.J. will retain that role this season.

“This will be his third season being the pitching coach with the Turkeys,” Harrison said.

And Harrison pitched for his father in spots the last two seasons.

“I actually pitched once two years ago and then twice last year,” Harrison said. “In between my travel-ball starts in the summer if I needed a few innings here or there just to stay in tip-top shape and get a few innings with that team.”

No matter how the season progresses for the Titans, Lewis’ time wearing the green and gold is coming to an end.

“He’s honestly probably been one of the best leaders that I’ve coached,” Bullard said. “Coming into this year I was looking and Jack Vest threw six innings for us last year. We lost everything else on the mound. Coming into this year as a coach there’s a lot of unknowns.

“Not only did we lose six of our main arms, but we lost seven of nine starters. So, we knew it was going to be a process. And Harrison knew that.”

Also, Harrison Lewis could very well have a big decision to make when the Major League Baseball Draft runs July 9-11. He has signed to play at North Carolina, but depending on how high he’s drafted he could elect to sign like former West Forsyth player Payton Martin did last summer when he was drafted in the 17th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers instead of playing at East Carolina where he had signed to play college baseball.

“Having just dealt with that with Payton that was really my first experience of dealing with that as a head coach,” Bullard said. “And what an awesome experience. At the end of the day, I think each kid and each family has to do what’s best for their family.”

Lewis knows what’s on the horizon for him the next two months and beyond, but he’s more focused on the present.

“Right now, I’m playing baseball,” he said. “I’m enjoying my senior season and we’ll see what happens when it happens. I’m just going to play as well as I can for my team.”