Peeler championship: Davie 9, McMichael 2
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Davie County used wallball take an early lead and smallball to finally put away McMichael in the championship game of the Cliff Peeler Baseball Classic late Monday night.
Davie (18-2) won 9-2 at Salisbury High’s Robertson Stadium, taking its 12th in a row and its third Peeler title. The War Eagles also prevailed in 2001 and 2007 under coach Mike Herndon.
Joe Watson, who slammed three homers in the tourney opener, knocked in two more runs against McMichael (13-7) and earned the Kendall Huffman Memorial Award that goes to the MVP.
“It means a lot to me as a great individual award, but it’s more important for our team,” Watson said. “Maybe I’ve picked the right time to start playing well.”
Slated to start at 7 p.m., the first pitch was actually made close to 8:30. Despite the late start, the surging War Eagles got rolling early with an intimidating three-run first inning.
Carson Herndon, the coach’s son and the third War Eagle to swing, nearly drove a pitch through the left-field fence. It was one of the hardest-hit doubles in history and drew gasps from the crowd.
“Just a 2-0 fastball down the middle,” Herndon said. “I thought I’d probably hooked it foul.”
Proud papa Mike Herndon managed a smile or two talking about that rocket.
“(Salisbury coach) Scott Maddox told me he was going to send me a repair bill for his wall,” he said cheerfully.
Besides Herndon’s RBI double, Ryan Foster and Watson lashed RBI singles in that destructive first inning.
Watson singled home another run in the third, but McMichael pitcher Jeffrey Harris dug in after that, and it became a ballgame.
“Davie’s a very strong team, but no matter who you’re playing, you go out and play the game,” McMichael coach Mike Dalton said. “Jeffrey threw one of his best games, and if we’d done what we were supposed to do on a couple of bunts, we might’ve scared them to death.”
Justin Cook’s two-run double in the fourth cut Davie’s lead in half, and the lead was still a precarious 4-2 in the top of the sixth when Davie hurler Will Beason (2-0) got the third out with two men on.
“Beason’s our No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher, but we always feel good with him,” Coach Herndon said. “We knows he’s not going to walk many and he’s gonna pound the strike zone.”
Davie players said that even though it was surprisingly tight when they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, they weren’t worried.
“It felt just like the North Davidson game to me,” Foster said. “That one’s 1-1 in the fifth, and then we have a 13-run inning.”
“We’ve got the kind of lineup where we can bust out any minute,” he said. “We know it’s gonna happen.”
It happened in strange fashion when Davie’s sixth began with three straight singles. The last two were bunt hits by Nick Boswell and Alex Newman.
“We’ve been swinging so well, it was the first time we’ve bunted in a month,” Coach Herndon said. “I didn’t know if we remembered how.”
Connor Bodenhamer walked to force home a run and Jacob Barber hit a sac fly before Foster (4-for-4) crushed a three-run homer to blow it wide open.
“I had a good at-bat, fouled off a few and then got a pitch I could do something with,” Foster said. “But we got it started with the smallball. That’s not something we’ve done a lot of, so it’s good to know we can do it.”
McMichael ended Davie’s streak of five consecutive 10-run rule romps, but the War Eagles still walked away with championship medals.
“One of our goals,” Carson Herndon said. “We didn’t win this last year, so we came here with a chip on our shoulder.”