The South Piedmont Conference baseball tournament got under way Tuesday. The semifinals and final games will be held starting today at Northwest Cabarrus.
Northwest has dominated SPC baseball, winning both regular season titles and the inaugural tournament last year.
The Trojans hope to continue their stranglehold this week
"We talked about being the No. 1 team in the league all year long," said Northwest Cabarrus coach Joe Hubbard. "If you want to be at the top, you have to realize everybody is going to be out to get you, every team is going to give you their best shot."
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Hubbard said all eight teams have the potential to make a run because of the wealth of pitching talent in the conference.
Another major factor in the tournament is the competition that comes along in an all-county league.
"There is a natural rivalry in every game in the SPC and that is a very special thing in this tournament," said Hubbard. "All the kids know each other and every game you are fighting for bragging rights over your buddies."
The Trojans are the favorite to win the tournament again and hope home-field advantage will help.
Northwest is loaded with talent starting with second baseman Tanner Bigham and shortstop Corey Seager at the top of the lineup.
The Trojans also possess one of the best pitching duos in the league in senior lefty Rob Bain and junior right-hander Weston Smith.
Northwest has proven they are the best team in the SPC and they hope to do it again in the tournament.
The Ragin' Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the league, ascending to the No. 2 spot in the SPC standings with sweeps of Jay M. Robinson, Concord and A.L. Brown in three consecutive series to end the season.
Junior Blake Sides has been a major reason for their success as he is hitting .430 with five home runs and 24 RBI at the plate to go along with his 7-1 record on the mound.
Sides has a lot of help from seniors Zach Andrews and Jarrod Brown.
Hickory Ridge has been playing as well as anyone, so expect them to be at their best this week.
The Tigers, which finished tied for third in the conference, have also been hot of late and want to carry that into the postseason.
Senior Grayson Atwood will be a major factor on the mound and at the plate as the future North Carolina player will look to prove that he and shortstop Brandon Burris can lead their team into the postseason.
The Tigers are as dangerous as any team at the top of SPC and will be a tough out in SPC tournament.
Jay M. Robinson
The Bulldogs are the most improved team in the SPC, turning a 5-10 mark in 2010 into a tie for third-place in the league this year.
While Robinson has slipped down the stretch, they hope to right the ship in the SPC tournament.
The Bulldogs' success will depend heavily on their pitching staff that features junior Brody Koerner, who committed to Clemson, and sophomore Phillip Price. Both pitchers can be dominant and will need to be for Robinson to make a run.
Leadoff hitter Blaine Hill as well as Dillon Ashburn and Logan Austin help the team on the offensive end.
With their talent, the Bulldogs could be a factor in the tournament.
The Chargers have been hard to predict this season, as they were one of only two teams to beat Northwest Cabarrus, but then also struggled against some of lower seeds in the SPC.
Playing for their playoff lives, the fifth-seeded Cox Mill should be playing its best baseball.
Marshall Keyes, a junior, will be a big key as the ace of the pitching at 4-1 this year with a 2.02 ERA, while classmate Travis Watkins is the team's top power hitter.
The Spiders have been competitive all year, and will look to play their best baseball this week.
If Concord is going make a run, they will need the pitching duo of Patrick Jenkins and Ryan Burris to be at their best with senior catcher Corey Smith leading the way behind the plate.
Smith, senior Tyler Yow and company will also need to hit the ball well for the Spiders to pull off an upset.
After a hot start to the year, the Vikings have struggled in the second half of the season.
Brandon Porter, Jordan Pridgen and Ryan Yoder are capable of hitting with the league's best and will look to get hot this week. Garrett Freeze, Jordon Bruce and Michael Hartsell are all capable pitchers.
The Vikings will have a tough road in the tournament against the top seeds, but have the talent to make a run.
The Wonders finished in last place in the SPC, but are capable of being a tough opponent.
Left-handed pitcher Dylan May has a big arm and will try to give Brown a chance.
The Wonders made a run in the tournament final last year and hope to pull off some similar postseason magic this week.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for Cabarrus News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.