From the moment he threw the opening pitch at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, this was Jimmy Boyd’s night.
The senior righty from Middle Creek had a perfect game through five innings, striking out eight batters, giving up a single and walking one. He threw 85 pitches and faced just one more than the minimum number of batters.
But most importantly, he gave his team a lead in the 4A state championship best-of-3 series with a 2-0 victory Friday night against Cornelius Hough.
“He looked like he should’ve been playing for the Durham Bulls instead of the Middle Creek Mustangs,” said Middle Creek coach Jeremy Thompson.
Hough’s only hit came from No. 7 hitter Eric Siler an 0-2 count that was drive back up the middle of the infield.
“I did a decent job of keeping the ball low. That one hit was a mess-up on my part,” Boyd said. “I threw a fastball right down the middle. Other than that, I did a decent job of locating.”
But as dominant as Boyd was on the mound, Hough’s Brandon Gragilla was matching him pitch-for-pitch through the first three innings. The 6-foot-6 lefty didn’t give up a hit until Boyd, who bats left-handed, singled with one out in the top of the fourth.
Middle Creek made the most of its next three baserunners.
In the top of the fifth, Hough surrendered a walk to senior second baseman Colin Pelosi. But Pelosi stole second a few pitches later. Freshman shortstop Diego Guerrero responded by ripping a double down the right field line that went all the way into the corner, and Pelosi scored with ease.
Guerrero had two doubles on the night, the only player on either side with more than one hit.
“I was nervous in the first inning, but after the first play I settled down and felt better,” Guerrero said.
Another stolen base helped the Mustangs score their second run. Keenen Herring doubled with two outs in the top of fifth, then stole third. One pitch later, senior catcher Austin Parker drove him in with a RBI single.
“We didn’t know how much we could run. Their catcher (Nick Daddio) is just a stud, going to UNC-Charlotte, throws it great,” Thompson said. “We just got fortunate. The kids took good pitches to run on and they did what they were supposed to do.”
Boyd walked Jacob Buchanan to start the seventh, but got N.C. State recruit Johnny Piedmonte to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. First baseman Graham Edwards caught a line drive to end the game.
“One more (win) is what we want,” Thompson said. “We’ve got two games to get it, so we feel good about that. But we’d love to get it in the first one.”
Saturday’s Game 2 is set a 2 p.m. start, sandwiched between Games 1 (11 a.m.) and 2 (5 p.m.) of the 1A baseball series with Durham Voyager Academy and South Stanly. The 4A Game 3, if necessary, will be at 8 p.m.
Middle Creek did not announce whether junior Graham Edwards (8-1, 1.75 ERA, 68 Ks) or senior Sal Savarese would start Game 2. Savarese started Game 2 for the Mustangs in the 4A East regional best-of-3 series against Richmond County, while Edwards started Game 3.