Northern Guilford Beats Grays Creek 2-1 to Advance to Third Round of State Playoffs with Complete Game from Cameron Cotter; Offensive Production from Patrick Winicki
There was an intense playoff atmosphere at Northern Guilford on Friday night when the 13th-ranked Nighthawks took the field to play the 29th -ranked Grays Creek Bears. Both teams’ fans showed up in big numbers, and Northern fans erupted when the Nighthawks took the field as their names were called before the beginning of the first inning.
From the first pitch, sophomore Nighthawk starting pitcher Cameron Cotter was calm and in control.
“I was definitely nervous,” Cotter said after the game, “ but I knew that if I could throw strikes, I would win the game for us.”
The Nighthawks took control early in the game, and scored their first run in the second inning against Grays Creek starting pitcher, Zach Bagley. Their domination belied the fact that the only senior in the Northern line-up was Kevin Bell, who was designated hitter Friday night. Northern’s starting pitcher, Cotter, and five other starting players were sophomores, and the two offensive leaders for the Nighthawks, Stan Dymek, and Patrick Winicki were juniors. They all played like seasoned veterans.
Cotter pitched a complete game, giving up one run, three hits, three walks, and struck out six batters, including striking out the side in the top of the seventh inning when the Nighthawks had a 2-1 lead to end the game.
Northern’s first run in the bottom of the second inning came when Cole Chapman drew a walk, and Stan Dymek followed with a double, scoring Chapman. The Nighthawks then left the bases loaded. That got Grays Creek starter Zach Bagley out of a jam, giving up only the one run that inning.
Grays Creek scored their only run of the game in the top of the fifth inning, when Rob Daniel drew a walk, and Derrell Williams laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Daniel to second. When Rob Daniel reached second base, Trashawn Elmore pinch-ran for him and was driven in on a single by the Grays Creek centerfielder.
That tied the game 1-1 in the fifth, and Grays Creek brought in their flame-throwing right-hander Gatlin Pate after Zach Bagley walked Northern’s catcher Logan King. JT Jarrett reached on a fielder’s choice, when King was out at second base for the second out of the inning.
Nighthawk junior Patrick Winicki became the offensive hero for Northern on Friday night by driving in the game-winning run. With Jarrett on second in the bottom of the fifth inning, Winicki hit an infield single. Coach Landon Kimrey waved Jarrett home on that ground ball to the shortstop.
“ I wasn’t sure where the ball was,” Jarrett said, “ but I trusted coach Kimrey waving me home. I was going hard the whole way, and my hustle and it turned out pretty good.”
Nighthawk coach Kimrey: “I knew they had (Grays Creek pitcher) Pate in there. He’s got a good arm. We had JT (Jarrett) at second and he’s the best wheels we’ve got. The shortstop made that throw, and we kept JT going. I don’t know if there’s anyone else we would’ve sent at that point in the game.”
That turned out to be a game-winning decision.
Northern pitcher Cameron Cotter had a great performance, “especially for a sophomore,” Kimrey said. “He’s not going to go out there and strike out a lot of guys, but when we make plays behind him, like we did tonight, he can be that good. I’m proud of the kid.”
Kimrey said it felt good to advance to the third round of the state playoffs.
“ We’ve got some no-name kids, because they’re so young. A lot of teams don’t know who our guys are, because we’re playing so many young players. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ll probably be on the road next round, because both teams are higher seeds than us, so that will change some things up. We’re going to keep playing the glove, throw strikes, and try to scratch out a few more runs.”
“Both teams pitched well,” said Grays Creek coach Jeffrey Nance. “We just didn’t make a couple of defensive plays. They capitalized on it, and that was the difference in the game.”
The game was exactly what you would expect from a high school playoff baseball game: intense, hard fought, and exciting. “An absolutely phenomenal performance,” summed up Coach Kimrey.