Northwestern’s John Gilreath couldn’t wait to get the ball back for the third game of the 5A baseball state championship series against River Bluff. The left-handed junior pitcher hadn’t thrown his best game in the opener, a loss after the Trojans stranded double-digit runners.
But he stepped up at the biggest moment, allowing just two hits and a single run in the Trojans’ pivotal Game 3 win that brought the first baseball state title back to the school that night.
That kind of performance was typical of Gilreath’s spring; he is The Herald’s 2017 All-Area baseball player of the year. The South Carolina commit was 11-0 on the mound with a 1.33 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 74 innings. He threw a no-hitter and won four games in the playoffs.
Picking the area’s top coach was a bit tougher. Three local teams reached the state finals - South Pointe, Lewisville and Northwestern - with the latter two bringing titles home. Billy Keels won his second title at Lewisville, while Mitch Walters broke through with his, and Northwestern’s, first championship. Thus, Keels and Walters are The Herald’s 2017 baseball coaches of the year.
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South Pointe’s Joel Taylor and Fort Mill’s Travis Collier also deserve praise for excellent coaching jobs, especially Taylor, who took the Stallions to the program’s first state title appearance and recently stepped down from his head coaching position.
Player of the year: John Gilreath, Northwestern
Co-coaches of the year: Billy Keels, Lewisville and Mitch Walters, Northwestern
John Gilreath, Northwestern - southpaw South Carolina commit made 5A All-State and was named High School Sports Report 5A player of the year after helping the Trojans to a state title. Gilreath was 11-0 with a 1.33 ERA and 81 strikeouts, with just 20 walks. He also threw a no-hitter and delivered in Northwestern’s biggest games.
Kobie MacKinnon, Fort Mill - North-South all-star and Region 4-5A player of the year hit .450 with a home run and 32 RBI. MacKinnon, a Brunswick Community College signee, stole nine bases and had 45 total hits.
Drew Colvin, Lewisville - Colvin earned 1A All-State and Region 2-A player of the year honors after going 9-1 on the mound with 87 strikeouts and a 0.65 ERA. Colvin also played in the North-South all-star game.
Cameron Reeves, Northwestern - Reeves, a South Carolina commit, was one of the best two-way players around. He was a 5A All-State selection after batting .402 and playing second base, and also posting a 6-2 record and 2.43 ERA on the mound.
Bo Taylor, South Pointe - Coastal Carolina signee returned from a hand injury that cost him seven games to have a productive senior season. He made 4A All-State and the S.C. Select team after hitting .412 with 16 stolen bases and a 0.527 on-base percentage.
Rob Hughes, Northwestern - powerful junior pitcher committed to Furman was a 5A All-State pick after going 9-1 on the mound with a 1.10 ERA.
Ty Good, South Pointe - Good was a productive player in multiple positions for the 4A state finalists, hitting .357 with 25 RBI, and producing a 6-3 record on the mound with a 2.04 ERA. Good, a sophomore, earned 4A All-State honors.
Alex Reed, Lewisville - 1A All-State senior catcher headed to Brunswick Community College (N.C.) hit .343 with five doubles and three home runs.
Thomas Caldwell, York - North-South all-star was named Region 3-4A player of the year after hitting .419 with a home run and 12 RBI. The senior also stole 10 bases.
Will Gardiner, Northwestern - smooth infielder made the 5A All-State and S.C. Select teams after helping the Trojans to a state title.
Stephen Thompson, South Pointe - North-South all-star hit .361 with three home runs and 34 RBI. All-Region third baseman signed with the Naval Academy.
Trey Keels, Lewisville - 1A All-State selection was 9-0 on the mound with a 1.12 ERA and also hit .315 with five doubles for the 1A state champs.
Wesley Sweatt, Northwestern - South Carolina commitment saved eight games, including four in the playoffs, and finished the spring with a 1.80 ERA.
Nolan Bolt, Indian Land - junior was 3-2 on the mound for the Warriors with a 1.39 ERA, 53 strikeouts and just seven walks. The College of Charleston commit also saved a pair of games.
Jeff Taylor, Northwestern - senior right fielder signed with USC Upstate hit .400 and made All-Region 4-5A.
Spencer Bala, South Pointe - All-Region selection hit .350 with two home runs and 18 RBI and was 8-3 pitching with a 2.99 ERA, which earned him Region 3-4A pitcher of the year honors.
Joey Tepper, Fort Mill - All-Region 4-5A senior infielder hit .426 with 21 RBI and 13 stolen bases, and also saved four games on the mound.
Daniel Gueldner, Indian Land - junior shortstop hit .462 with 10 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Gueldner had a 0.943 fielding percentage
Luke Blanchett and Anthony McCullough, Chester; Kyle Kalick, Clover; Logan Miller and Logan Stone, Fort Mill; Connor Henson, Great Falls; Justin Cope, Indian Land; Andrew Culp, Lewisville; Nick Hoffman and Evan Lammers, Nation Ford; Davis Goodyear, Jordan Starkes, Andrew Shipman and Will Hagood, Northwestern; Jackson Timmers, Rock Hill; Daniel Lipe, South Pointe; Nick Clayton and Austin Devinney, York.