For many years, the Intimidator Baseball Classic pitted Cabarrus County high schools against each other when most of the teams were in different conferences.
But after the formation of the all-county South Piedmont Conference two seasons ago, the tournament wanted to take a new direction.
The newly renamed F&M Bank Baseball Classic will have that new look with four Cabarrus County teams taking on four Rowan County teams with the Intimidator Classic Cup on the line for the winning county at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, the home of the Kannapolis Intimidators.
"I think it's a great format with one county versus the other county," said Northwest Cabarrus coach Joe Hubbard, noting the coaches looked at the ACC-Big 10 challenge as a model for this event.
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"We are all looking forward to it. To get to play great competition in a professional baseball stadium is a great opportunity for every team."
The competition will be fierce as it features eight strong teams, including two ranked in the top 10 in the state in Northwest Cabarrus, ranked No. 2 by impactbaseball.com, and No. 6 East Rowan, while Jay M. Robinson and Carson have also made a lot of noise near the top of their respective conferences.
The individual talent from these eight teams is also impressive as they feature multiple Division I prospects, including Northwest Cabarrus' Rob Bain (Davidson), Tanner Bigham (North Carolina) and Corey Seager (South Carolina), Jay M. Robinson's Brody Koerner (Clemson) as well as Mount Pleasant's Grayson Atwood (North Carolina) and Brandon Burris (Appalachian State) just to name a few.
While individual and team talent will be on display this week, in the end, Cabarrus and Rowan counties will be looking for bragging rights, as the teams prepare for their conference tournaments and potential playoff runs.
"This tournament gives the Cabarrus-Rowan County rivalries a great chance to grow and intensify," said Hubbard. "I think this event is something we can build on, and these rivalries will develop into something special for years to come."
The Trojans have clinched their second straight SPC regular season title and have spent most of the season near the top of the state rankings as well.
But Northwest Cabarrus is just getting to the part of the season where they hope to prove that all the rankings are no fluke.
The Trojans are led by Bain who leads a deep pitching staff that also features Weston Smith.
At the plate, Seager and Bigham lead a talented lineup that has speed and power with senior David Broome also a big factor recently.
Hubbard and the Trojans want to prove they are the best of the best and anything less than three wins at this event will likely be a disappointment for this top-flight team. The Friday matchup with defending 3A state champion East Rowan has the potential to be the best game of the tournament.
Jay M. Robinson
Robinson has been right on the Trojans' heels all season and will use this tournament as a springboard for the SPC tournament next week.
Like Northwest, Robinson has an elite pitching staff with Koerner and Phillip Perry at the top of the rotation.
The Bulldogs also have a solid group of batters with first baseman Dillon Ashburn leading the way, hitting over .400, but getting a lot of help from leadoff hitter Blaine Hill and teammate Logan Austin.
Robinson has a challenging slate with both Carson and East Rowan on their docket, but the Bulldogs are getting into playoff and postseason mode and with their pitching and should be able to play with anyone.
The Tigers have been solid all year in the deep and talent SPC, being in fourth-place in the league standings. But outside of the SPC, Mount Pleasant could be a dangerous team after playing against top talent all season.
Atwood, a senior, leads his team at the plate and on the mound with a lot of help from classmate Brandon Burris.
Mount Pleasant has the unenviable task of taking on East Rowan in their opener, but the Tigers will be a tough out for every team they play. A couple of wins here would give Mount Pleasant a lot of confidence going into May 3-6's SPC tourney and the rest of postseason play.
The Wonders have the tough task of being the unofficial host of the Intimidator Classic with the tournament being in their hometown. But A.L. Brown will look to use that support to pull off an upset or two, which they are capable of doing.
Despite finishing the season in last place in the conference, the Wonders have a lot of offensive talent with players like Quin Gill and Zach Jones.
They also capable of giving opposing lineups trouble with lefty Dylan May and Jones on the mound.
The Wonders will likely end their season at the SPC tournament next week, so this is like their version of the postseason. A team with talent and nothing to lose like Brown could be a dangerous opponent for every team they play.