The glimpses of excellence as a sophomore turned into all-out "Ace" worthiness for Silver Creek's Cole Winn as a junior.

But you should already know his name, and you should not be surprised at the dominance he showed in 2017 in becoming the baseball player of the year.

He's getting recognized as one of the top right-handed pitchers in the country by several scouting web sites, he's already committed to a formidable Division I baseball program in Mississippi State, and he is a draw in-state for major league scouts.

For all that, he knows it all comes down to doing a job and performing — and that's what he did for the Raptors as they made their way to the Class 4A state tournament this season.

"I had a pretty good year last year and I wanted to build on that, so I even quit playing basketball so I could work on things all winter. I felt like that had a lot to do with my success on the mound," Winn said Thursday from Oklahoma, where he was getting ready to play in the prestigious Junior Sunbelt Classic with Team Colorado. "I felt really confident from the first start.

"Our head coach (Mike Apodaca) said at the beginning of the year, and this was not specifically directed at me, but as a team he said don't read into your press clippings. All that stuff is cool, but you have to take it with a grain of salt because you know you have to perform. I still knew I needed to put a lot of work into the kind of stuff I did this year."


The Raptors carried the weight all season of being a state contender, and that started with the right arm of Winn — who hits 90 on the radar gun with ease and has a devastating slider — and a pitching staff that was pretty deep overall.

Winn was good for a check in the right column almost every time, though Apodaca professed that the Raptors' offense still needed to score runs to win as many games as they did in reaching the Elite Eight.

There are no professional statisticians to rely on, but Winn's numbers are simply mind-boggling. He allowed 14 total runs in 51.2 innings while striking out 100 batters and walking just 14.

Among his highlights was a no-hitter against Centaurus — a five-inning, 13-strikout gem against a Warriors that weren't pushovers, to be true — and a one-run, 12-strikeout game against Thompson Valley (a 4A semifinalist) in Northern League play.

Finally, perhaps most impressive of all, he was credited with both wins in district play as he came on in relief to get the win against Lewis-Palmer only to return and start the district championship against Holy Family (he was good for 15 strikeouts in seven combined innings), lifting the Raptors to their first state tournament since 2010.

Silver Creek teammates congratulate Cole Winn, center, after he scored during the Raptors first-round state playoff game on May 22.
Silver Creek teammates congratulate Cole Winn, center, after he scored during the Raptors first-round state playoff game on May 22. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

"Just being able to locate better was huge, spotting up and throwing strikes," Winn said, his final win-loss record checking in at 9-1. "The development of throwing strikes and trusting all my pitches was huge for me.

"The Arizona trip we took was one of the highlights of my spring, but winning districts the way we did and making the state tournament was definitely huge."

Winn may have been Silver Creek's ace pitcher, but he was also very good with a bat and while playing the corner infield, as well. He hit second in the lineup and batted .411 with 19 runs scored and 19 RBI, and he also walked 14 times. In five playoff games, he went 12-for-18 at the plate.

"I wanted to be a shortstop and just be able to hit" Winn said of his younger days, "so I've always taken a lot of pride in my hitting. I started out a little slow but toward the end of the year I got where I wanted to be. I was seeing the ball well at the end."

Which makes him more excited for the beginning of his senior year and the possibilities that lay ahead.

Adam Dunivan: or