Area Baseball Player of the Year: Currituck's Cole Bates shines in senior season
By Malcolm Shields
Sunday, June 30, 2019
BARCO — On a team that was filled with talented players, a player that was consistently one of the go-to players on the Currituck County baseball team was Cole Bates.
The right-handed pitcher and first baseman closed out his final high school season with the Knights with multiple individual standout performances.
His output during the 2019 high school baseball season made Bates the selection as The Daily Advance's Area Player of the Year.
Bates was named the Northeastern Coastal Conference co-Player of the Year along with Bertie County's Alden Cottle, was a first-team all-conference selection as a pitcher and was named to the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association Class 2A public schools all-state team.
He earned all-state honors for the second consecutive season.
Bates is set to continue his baseball career at NCAA Division I Delaware State University.
Bates noted that it meant a lot for him to be recognized as the best baseball player in the area because of the amount of work he has put in.
“It feels really great to win it my senior year and going to Delaware knowing that I can be great,” he said.
Entering the season, Bates said that he wanted to duplicate the same results that he had during his junior season.
During the 2018 season, he was credited with not giving up an earned run during the entire season.
Although he wasn't able to repeat the same feat, he still gave opposing batters fits when he was pitching.
One of the attributes that stood out to Currituck head coach Justin Hill about Bates is his control on the mound.
“When he's pitching, from a coaching perspective, you can kind of relax because you always know he's going to pound the strike zone,” Hill said. “He's always going to give you a chance to win. Whatever a team is going to get that day, they are going to have to earn it because he's not going to put people on base. He's going to go deep into games, if not finish the game every time. He is so efficient. He's been as efficient as a pitcher that I have coached throughout my time here and at any level.”
The numbers back up Hill's assessment of Bates.
During the 2019 season, Bates pitched in over 56 innings, with an ERA around 1.00 with 71 strikeouts, 10 walks and limited opposing batters to a batting average around .200 on the season.
Bates' potential was evident to Hill since Bates' freshman season.
Hill noted that Bates has been part of the starting rotation for the majority of his prep career at Currituck.
Bates noted that having an ERA under 1.00 along with improving his hitting at the plate were personal goals.
He was able to make improvements at the plate as he sported a batting average around .400 with over 25 RBI.
“I think it was one of the best things I did this year,” Bates said of his hitting.
Bates acknowledged that he takes pride in being able to play multiple positions, and not typecast as just a pitcher or just a first baseman.
“It's nice to know that I can play in the field or on the mound,” he said.
In a season that saw Bates in a lot of big moments, that also included a combined no-hitter against Granby (Va.) in a 1-0 win on March 22, one of Bates' biggest moments came in the Albemarle Easter Tournament championship game against Perquimans April 23 at Perquimans.
He pitched seven innings, gave up four hits, no earned runs with a walk and posted eight strikeouts.
At the plate, Bates went 3-for-5 with a run scored, a double with an RBI in the Knights' 8-0 win to secure the tournament championship.
“Throwing a full game when I knew that I didn't have my best stuff, having my teammates to help me out and play great defense behind me and give me run support, it was a great team win,” Bates said. “Everyone contributed. It felt really good.”
Bates noted that winning the tournament was a goal and the team wanted to bounce back after losing their first game in pool play against Gates County.
When the Knights needed to clinch the outright conference championship, Bates got the start for the Knights against First Flight in Kill Devil Hills on May 2.
In that contest, Bates went 6 2/3 innings, gave up six hits, an earned run and registered 10 strikeouts to help Currituck to a 7-2 win.
The result locked up the outright conference championship and an undefeated season in the league for the Knights.
Bates acknowledged that winning the conference championship outright was one of the team goals.
A similar situation played out last season where Currituck needed to win the final game of the regular season against First Flight in Barco.
The Knights lost the game which led to a share of the league championship between Currituck and First Flight.
Bates and the Knights did not allow history to repeat itself.
“Hostile environment with everything on the line. Kind of the same situation we were in last year. He got up there and did what he did,” Hill said. “He controlled them and gave us an opportunity for us to win. He provided a spark offensively too in that game. He really did it this year offensively and defensively. We certainly have other good pitchers on our team and there are good pitchers throughout the area, but what separated him was the ability to be a leader on offense as well.”
Currituck would end the season with 19-5 overall record and a trip to the second round of the NCHSAA Class 2A baseball state playoffs.
Bates got a positive impression about Delaware State on his visit to the university.
“The campus was really nice,” he said. “When I went for my walk-around, the coaches were great. I loved everything about the team. It felt like a place where I can develop more as a player and as a student.”
Bates projects that he will be able to pitch and hit with the Hornets.
Hill believes Bates will have success at the college level.
“I think that he is just going to get stronger. His body is going to continue to develop like all athletes do when they move on. He's going to continue to mature. I look for him to continue to work on mental toughness on the mound and keeping his composure and poise... I don't see any fall off from his No. 1 thing, which is pounding the zone. Any coach at any level will tell you that it all starts with throwing strikes. As long as nothing changes there, he is going to be successful.”