Sophomore gets SPC season off with no-hitter

For a couple of reasons, any time Garrett Freeze and the Central Cabarrus baseball team faces Hickory Ridge, there's a greater chance for the dramatic.

So it was that much more special for the sophomore lefty when he threw a no-hitter against the rival Ragin' Bulls to open the South Piedmont 3A Conference schedule March 8.

There aren't any students left who were redistricted from Central Cabarrus to Hickory Ridge when the Harrisburg high school opened in 2007, but Freeze's reversal - transferring from Hickory Ridge to Central Cabarrus last year - made his no-no against his former classmates something to remember.

"For a kid to take the ball on opening day as a sophomore ... against one of our rivals, you have to have a certain character to do something like that," said Vikings coach Jim Knight.

Freeze had strong connections to Central Cabarrus before he attended his first class there last year. His father, Perry, is a 1979 Central graduate and taught and coached at his alma mater for 25 years through 2007.

Freeze, who lives in Central's district, was on track to become a Viking through elementary and middle school. One of his favorite baseball memories came as a member of C.C. Griffin Middle's team when he scored the winning run in the conference championship matchup against Mount Pleasant.

But when his father transferred to teach and coach at Hickory Ridge when it opened in 2007, Freeze thought it was a natural fit that he would attend Hickory Ridge too.

But it didn't take him long to find out how much he really wanted to attend Central Cabarrus. Some of his friends were at Hickory Ridge, but others that he missed were at Central Cabarrus.

After the first grading period of his freshman year, Freeze transferred to Central.

He started the 2010 baseball season on the junior varsity team. Knight recognized Freeze's ability, especially on the mound, and pulled him up a little over halfway through the season.

Playing at the higher level was tough for Freeze, but he wasn't by himself. His good friend, and fellow freshman, Quinton Covington was also called up at the same time.

This year, Freeze and Covington are stationed in the Vikings' outfield together. Freeze is in center and Covington is in left, though he slides to centerfield when Freeze is pitching.

That's where Covington was when Freeze took the hill against the Ragin' Bulls. The first inning was a precursor for the rest of the game for Freeze, striking out his first three batters and following that up by striking two more Bulls in the second.

Meanwhile, the Vikings were pushing across runs in support of their young teammate. Brandon Porter singled in Freeze with two outs in the first while Nick Estevez plated Andrew Burgesser with a two-out hit in the second. Jordan Pridgen delivered a run-scoring of his own in the third, as Porter crossed the plate.

It was in the fourth inning that Freeze says he realized he was flirting with the no-hitter. Teammates were hinting about it but Knight was tipping his hat to baseball superstition and did not speak of it.

Freeze benefited from a couple of defensive gems, including first baseman Jimmy Tuz's stab of a groundball in the third inning and Covington's catch at the centerfield fence for the second out of the seventh inning. Senior catcher Ryan Yoder called all of the pitches for his sophomore battery mate.

"My catcher helped me out a lot," said Freeze. "He showed me where I needed to go. He framed me well. He got me a couple of calls."

Freeze finished with eight strikeouts and was a walk and a teammate's error away from pitching a perfect game. He says the no-hitter was his first since twirling one in AAU as a 12-year-old.

Knight says it's the first thrown by one of his players in his 13 years of high school coaching.