Peeler baseball: South Rowan 9, Salisbury 3 (5 innings)
By Bret Strelow
Preston Penninger ended last year’s Cliff Peeler Easter Tournament with a dramatic home run, and he helped South Rowan enjoy a satisfying start to the 2009 event.
Jordan Corriher and Steve Erwin scored on a Penninger single that capped a four-run top of the first for South, which won 9-3 against host Salisbury in a first-round game shortened to five innings by rain.
Penninger also picked up the victory for the Raiders, who needed nine innings and a walk-off homer from their regular catcher to edge Davie County in the 2008 final.
“There is some pride coming into it after being successful last year, but the kids wanted to just come out and play and keep on getting better,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “I was really happy with our start. We’ve been really kind of slow starting games, and we jumped out there and got a lead in the first. That was real important for us, and I’d like to see that trend continue.”
Leadoff batter Blake Houston (3-for-3, two runs scored, one stolen base) had his best outing of the season, and No. 2 hitter Dylan Walker (two doubles, three RBIs) continued his hot streak.Salisbury starter Forrest Buchanan hit Houston with a pitch to open the game, and he scored from second on a double by Walker. He moved to third on a wild pitch and raced home on Maverick Miles’ sacrifice fly.
Corriher and Erwin were aboard when Penninger delivered a two-run single to the right-field fence.
Penninger was tagged out sliding into second base, and he took the mound for the first time with mud covering the front of his uniform.
“It was tougher than it would have been if I wouldn’t have been dirty, but I thought I pitched pretty well,” Penninger said. “I hit my spots.”
Russell Michalec’s single to begin the bottom half of the first was Salisbury’s only hit in the first three innings, and Penninger allowed one earned run. He struck out eight batters.
South (6-7) posted an unearned run in the third and scored twice in the fourth to go ahead 7-0 against the Hornets (1-11).
J.D. Bare and Houston produced back-to-back singles before Walker smacked a two-run double that triggered a pitching change.
“Chrismon has been talking a lot about how important it is to get on base, to stay back and take the ball to the opposite field,” Walker said. “I got on base there, and Blake’s starting to hit the ball a lot now too.”
Nolan Meyerhoeffer relieved Buchanan but allowed a single and walk to load the bases with nobody out.
Meyerhoeffer fielded a chopper back to the mound and threw home for a force at the plate, then induced a groundball that second baseman John Knox and shortstop Spencer Carmichael turned into an inning-ending double play.
Salisbury’s offense responded by breaking through for three runs against Penninger. Buchanan, Jordan Fuller and Frankie Cardelle singled consecutively to end the shutout, and a throwing error allowed courtesy runner Ian Swaim to score. Cardelle came home on a bunt by Jeremy Forbis.
South answered with two runs in the fifth to complete the scoring in a matchup of teams looking to bounce back from losses the previous night.
“When we put up those three runs, you still didn’t feel the excitement from the kids,” said Salisbury coach Scott Maddox, whose team lost a 13-inning game Monday and fell 8-6 to Central Davidson on Thursday. “That happens when you come out early against a team that can maintain some enthusiasm and some energy. South jumped up with four big runs early, so it was a lot easier to stay up and get some enthusiasm, and they were coming off a tough game with East.”