Peeler tournament: A to Z preview
By Mike London
The Cliff Peeler Easter Tournament returns to Salisbury High today, Saturday and Monday.
The eight-team field includes five Rowan schools, Davie, Forbush and Lexington.
Ten games will be played instead of the usual 12. There will be only two games Monday because of school. That slate includes a third-place game at 4:30 p.m. and the championship game at 7 p.m.
Teams that lose first-round games Friday will wind up their tournament stay Saturday.
South Rowan, which beat Davie County in dramatic fashion in last year’s title game, is the defending champion.
East Rowan returns this season after taking an Easter trip to Florida in 2008. The Mustangs (8-2) are the favorite, although Carson (9-1), Davie (6-3) and Forbush (6-3) bring strong records into the event. Carson’s lone loss was to East.
East, South, North Rowan and Salisbury played league games Thursday, which will force their pitching rotations to go very deep in the tournament. East and Carson have NPC games scheduled next Tuesday, the day after the championship is decided.
Peeler baseball is usually good under any circumstances and in any weather.
Fans who turned out for the 2002 event got to see three future draft picks on one team ó East’s Cal Hayes Jr., Bobby Parnell and Spencer Steedley.
All three had extra-base hits in a 17-0 semifinal victory over Harding that year, and the Mustangs cruised to a 9-0 victory over West Rowan behind Julian Sides’ 13 strikeouts in the championship game.
The Peeler A to Z:A ó is for Albemarle. The Bulldogs’ Bradley Holt wowed scouts at the 2005 event. He pitched a one-hitter against East, although the Mustangs somehow won the game 3-0.The New York Mets took Holt with the 33rd pick in last June’s draft following a strong career at UNC Wilmington. He was 11-1 for Brooklyn in his pro debut.
B is for Salisbury slugger Forrest Buchanan. He had four more hits Tuesday.
Run, Forrest, run.
C is for coach Chris Cauble’s Carson Cougars, who have a five-game winning streak. The Cougars haven’t played Lake Norman or West Rowan yet, but they did beat Mooresville. Their sweet 9-1 record includes six NPC wins.
D is for Davie. The War Eagles are always a factor. They celebrated Peeler titles in 2001 and 2007.
E is for East. The Peeler isn’t exactly the East Rowan Invitational, but the Mustangs have won four of the last nine titles decided on the field. Rain was declared the winner in 2003 and 2004.
F is for Forbush, which has made several previous visits at Easter. The Falcons were co-champs of the Salisbury Optimist tournament in 1991.
G is for Carson center fielder and leadoff man Zack Grkman, the catalyst for an offense that’s scored in double figures four times.
H is for East coach Brian Hightower and Davie coach Mike Herndon. There’s a decent chance they’ll meet again in Monday’s championship game. They had some battles when both teams were in the CPC.
I is for East right fielder David Ijames, who leads the county in two-out hits. He already has nine doubles and 15 RBIs.
J is for South right fielder Jacob Jester, who has flashed a gold glove.
K is for Salisbury second baseman John Knox. The amazing catch he made in a 13-inning loss to Providence Grove was one of the plays of the century.
L is for Lexington, which joins the field this year. The Yellow Jackets own one win and have a tough opening-round draw against Davie.
M is for South shortstop Maverick Miles. The junior took a .513 batting average into Thursday’s game.
N is for North Rowan. The Cavaliers haven’t won a first-round game in the Peeler since they beat East Surry in 2005. North last won an Easter championship in 1995.
O is for zeroes. There haven’t been as many as usual on scoreboards around the county. That could change, however, once East gets Corbin Shive back on the mound. The Charlotte signee debuted Thursday.
P is for South catcher/pitcher Preston Penninger. His homer decided last year’s title game.
Q is for quick. That’s East. The Mustangs usually have six or seven in the lineup who can steal a base.
R is for R.B.I.
Marny Hendrick and the rest of the Rowan Baseball Incorporated gang put on a great tournament every year, along with Salisbury Civitan. Then they put all the profits back into Rowan baseball programs. Give ’em a hand.
S is for host Salisbury, which is in a rebuilding year, and defending champ South, which is also retooling after graduating a great class.
T is for East’s Preston Troutman. He is the best player in the county everyone doesn’t know about yet. Looks like he can do anything on a baseball field.
U is for underdogs. Everyone but East and Davie qualifies this year.
V is for victories. No pitcher in the county has more than three. East’s Kent Basinger and Cody Laws and Carson’s Nich Glass are the county leaders.
W is for West Rowan. The Falcons aren’t in the tournament again this year, but they’ve already won an Easter title in Wilmington.
Watch out for the Falcons in the second half. They’ve won their last five contests. They’ll play Statesville in an NPC makeup game Monday.
X is for extra-base hits. While South’s Miles hit for the cycle on opening day against North, only a handful of county players have hit for the cycle ó for the season. South’s Alex Ingold, West’s Jon Crucitti, East’s Ijames and East’s Shive are on the list.
Y is for Cy Young. The former East pitcher had the best name in Peeler history. Now he’s helping Wilkes Community College to the best record in its history. He was 7-1 at last report.
Z is for Julio Zubillaga. Carson’s second baseman has been sharp in the field while batting .400 with 11 runs scored.