Before heading back to China, Daniel Wuxihong wanted to give his Cotter High School baseball teammates a parting gift.

And what a gem it was.

The junior pitched into the seventh inning in Friday’s nonconference game against Lake City, scattering five hits and striking out three while walking two in leading the Ramblers to a key 3-1 victory over a section opponent.

“Very good way to go out,” said Cotter coach Don Freeman. “This was a huge game, a section game. This helps our seeding. And obviously right now, we’re playing well.”

The win was the fourth straight and sixth in the last seven games for Cotter (8-9), which has the inside track to the No. 7 seed in the MSHSL Section 1AA East tournament following the win over the Tigers (4-12).

Cotter will, however, miss the services of Wuxihong, whose fingerprints were all over Friday’s victory.

Mixing sliders and curveballs with well-placed fastballs, Wuxihong got the outs when he needed them Friday. His defense bailed him out on a couple of occasions, including in the first inning, when catcher David French threw out a runner heading for third and in the second inning, when second baseman Parker Nelton threw out a runner at home.

“That’s the key,” Freeman said. “Pitch, don’t make errors, don’t give away runs. The first part of the year, we weren’t doing that.”

Wuxihong also singled and scored in a two-run first inning that ended up being the only support he would need. Cotter added an insurance run in the top of the sixth; Wuxihong drove a ball to deep right field that was tracked down by Lake City right fielder Hunter Grimm, who made a diving catch to end the inning and keep the Ramblers from blowing the game wide open.

Wuxihong ran out of pitches in the seventh inning, but Noah French came in and closed the door.

“I like sliders,” Wuxihong said. “It was working really well. Curveball. Fortunately, my fastball was pretty much in command, so that helped me a lot, too.”

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He plans to come back to Cotter next year and will work on his parents to let him stay and finish out the season.

“We’ll see,” he said.

Wuxihong, from Beijing, said baseball in China is more strict and not as fun, although he did say that he enjoyed both styles.

“It’s a different mentality,” he said. “I like both. I learned both, I’m fortunate to combine those two aspects and help our team.”

His dream is to play Division I college baseball. He’d even go so far as to cut his long black hair, which doesn’t get in the way when he’s hitting or pitching, but sometimes can be a problem in the field.

“If I can get into a Division I school, I will shave it and donate it to someone,” he said. “Hook me up, Division I coaches.”

He said he probably won’t play baseball this summer when he goes home; instead he’ll be studying for the ACT, which he hopes will open as many collegiate doors as possible.

He’ll watch the Ramblers from afar as they close the regular season with Three Rivers Conference games against La Crescent and Fillmore Central next week and a nonconference game against Triton on Monday, May 22.

Even though he’ll miss having Wuxihong in the lineup, on the mound and in the field, Freeman is confident in the way the team is playing. Two weeks ago, the team’s spirits were low following a humbling 13-3 loss to Southland, and Freeman wasn’t shy on sharing his concerns. But Cotter is 5-1 since that point, and could be a dangerous team come playoff time.

“We’re playing well,” Freeman said. “I like it. We’re having fun now.”

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