For the past few years, Surry Community College head baseball coach Tim Collins has focused on signing as much local talent as he could. The policy paid off last year, when the Knights won the Region X title for the first time in 13 years, and then went to the NJCAA College World Series for the first time in 19 years.
Collins’ first recruit of the fall signing period continued the trend, as North Surry All-Conference standout Mack Cooke signed his national letter of intent to play for the Knights on Wednesday afternoon.
Cooke, an infielder and pitcher who has been a part of the Greyhounds’ lineup for the past two seasons, inked with Surry after an outstanding junior season in which he led North Surry with a 4-1 record on the mound, two saves, and was third on the team with a .344 batting average.
“Ever since I took over two years ago, we’ve had a big push to sign the local players,” said Collins. We want to get as many local players as we can. We have six this year and hope to have more next year.
“I’ve been watching Mack play since the 10th grade. He’s a player who can come in and pitch for us immediately.”
Cooke led the Hounds with 46.1 innings pitched during the 2017 season, and allowed just 33 hits for an excellent WHIP of 1.187. When he wasn’t pitching, he played in the field, where he ranked second or third in almost every hitting category on the team. His strong all-around play helped North recover from a slow start when several players missed games due to the basketball team’s run to the state finals. The Hounds were in contention for the conference title until the last week of the regular season.
Still, the expectations at North Surry, which won the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference in Cooke’s freshman year, are to do better than 12-10.
“I’m very excited for my senior year,” said Cooke. “We’re looking forward to doing better than we did last year.”
Cooke has been playing baseball since he was about five years old. He also wrestled in his first two years of high school, but said he always wanted to play at a higher level in his favorite sport, and gave up the mat a year ago.
“Baseball’s my favorite sport and it’s where I am going to stay,” he said.
When Collins came calling, it was a perfect fit for everyone involved.
“Surry was where I wanted to go. I wanted to stay close to home, and Surry is close to my friends and family,” said Cooke.
His high school coach, Tony Martin, also believes his player made a good choice.
“It’s always good to see one take a step up,” said Martin. “Mackenzie will do well. He is a hard worker, passionate about the game, and this is a good fit for him. He’ll have a good spring for us, and then we’re looking forward to watching him at Surry.”
Collins believes that Cooke best projects as a pitcher, but said he would give him a chance to play in the field during the 2018 fall season and evaluate from there. His coach-to-be even thinks that Cooke, who plans to study physical therapy in college, might have a chance to play ball after Surry.
“I think his best ability to go to the next level is as a pitcher,” said Collins. “I think he has a huge upside and can help us a lot.”
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.