Northwestern starting pitcher John Gilreath pitched a gem Saturday night as the Trojans beat River Bluff 5-2 to win the 5A baseball state title.
Northwestern fell in the 2014 state finals, its only previous trip to the championship. Mitch Walters’ club dropped Game 1 at River Bluff before winning last Tuesday at home and clinching the title Saturday at Blythewood High School.
"It feels great to finally get this last win," Walters, grinning. "Boys played great. We got great pitching, John (Gilreath) was excellent tonight."
Gilreath got the first 13 Gator batters out before Alex Urban ended the junior’s perfect game bid with a home run crushed into the right field trees. He allowed just two hits and one run.
"As soon as you get the nod like that you've just got to focus in and realize that this game is just another game," said Gilreath about starting the title-winning game. "You can't go out there super stressed. It was just like another region game, something we've done all year."
The Trojans led 2-1 by that point thanks to a pair of runs in the bottom of the third frame. Andrew Shipman was hit by pitcher Victor Kelly before Coby Boan and Jordan Starkes got on board to load the bases. Jeff Taylor’s single and Davis Goodyear’s sac fly scored the Trojans’ runs to give them the lead.
Northwestern loaded the bases again in the bottom of the fifth - which spelled the end of Kelly’s pitching effort - but unlike Game 1 when the Trojans stranded 16 runners, they pushed Starkes across to make it 3-1 headed to the sixth. In the bottom of that inning, Shipman sizzled a ball inside the first base foul line for an RBI triple to stretch the lead to 4-1 before scoring on a passed ball to stretch the lead to 5-1.
"Day after we got out last year we started lifting," said senior infielder Will Gardiner, "and it's been an ongoing process. We put it to them and it's all you can ask for."
It was more than Wesley Sweatt would need to close out the game in the seventh as the Trojans celebrated with a pile of joy.
"It's absolutely awesome that we could start No. 1 and finish No. 1," said Walters. "That doesn't happen very much."