Streit flashed a nasty deuce in 1987
Published 10:41 am Thursday, July 20, 2023
By Brian Pitts
Going into the 1987 Davie baseball season, the War Eagles figured to get big things from Terry McClannon. He was a 6-1 senior righthander who could blow batters away with his fastball. (He would meet expectations while throwing two no-hitters.)
Coach David Hunt had a tremendously gifted Davie newcomer in Denny Key, who also possessed a blazing fastball. The 6-3 sophomore could have blown out the candles on his 16th birthday cake simply by looking at them. (He would become one of the top pitchers in program history; in that ‘87 season, he had the win or the save in nearly half of Davie’s victories.)
The wildcard for the ‘87 pitching staff was a 5-7 junior named David Streit. Streit didn’t have much of a heater, but he was a curveball genius, and what he did that season to help Davie win its first conference championship in 16 years was absurd and wonderful. Thanks to a nasty overhand curveball, he was nearly untouchable.
“I wrestled at 135, so I might have gotten to 140 by the time baseball started,” Streit, 53, said last week. “I guarantee you the other teams were laughing when they saw me warming up. Their eyeballs got big. But they didn’t have much luck hitting that thing, did they?”
Streit moved from St. Louis to Mocksville when he was in third grade. From 1983-85, he was a workhorse pitcher for South Davie Junior High.
“(South coach) Grimes Parker taught me how to make my curveball better,” he said. “He’d say: ‘Bow your neck, lead with your elbow and aim at their head, boy.’ They were halfway out of the batter’s box when it was meat.”
Streit made the Davie squad as a sophomore. It was a rough season that saw the War Eagles go 8-12 (6-8 Central Piedmont Conference) and finish fourth. But in 1987, Streit became one of the best stories of the season and helped Davie end a 21-year playoff drought.
Streit made his season debut in the second game. He gave up one run on three hits over four innings. Reliever Key retired nine straight batters as Davie cruised 7-1 over West Iredell. Streit’s 12-to-6 deuce was dropping off the table and making hitters look foolish.
“Streit’s curveball was so slow that when he threw fastballs, they weren’t quick enough to get the bat around,” Hunt said then.
Davie faced West Iredell again in the next game, and McClannon fired a no-hitter as Davie rolled 6-1.
In Streit’s second start, a home game against Statesville, he really illustrated what he’s capable of. He went all seven innings and Davie exploded for seven runs in the sixth inning to win 8-2.
“There aren’t many high school pitchers who throw breaking balls, so that is to his advantage,” Hunt said. “Statesville was getting a little frustrated with the breaking ball. They were trying to pull it and Streit was keeping them offbalance.”
Streit held North Iredell to one hit in three relief innings, Chris Callison went 4 for 4 and Davie romped 10-3. After Davie outlasted Parkland 6-5 in 11 innings and outslugged South Rowan 14-11, Streit continued his ascent in a 10-0 rout of Reynolds. He struck out nine in a complete-game performance and ran his record to 4-0. At this point, his ERA looked like a misprint: 0.00.
“I didn’t care what the count was, I was throwing (the curve). I threw over the top, so it was 12 to 6,” he said. By the way, if you don’t like Streit, it could only be because you don’t like to laugh. “It was a nasty breaker. I could throw that thing and it wouldn’t even get to the plate and they were swinging at it. It was almost an eephus. It fooled a lot of folks.”
Key overwhelmed Mt. Tabor 3-1 on the road, McClannon struck out 16 in a 3-1, eight-inning win at North Davidson and Bob Richardson and Johnny Riddle combined for seven hits in a 15-0 stomping of Kannapolis that made Davie’s record 12-0.
Streit’s next victim was North Davidson. He twirled a three-hit shutout as Davie bounced back from its first loss with a 6-0 victory. At this point, Key was 5-0 with an 0.66 ERA, McClannon was 2-1 with a 2.27 ERA, and Streit’s spectacular stats looked like this: 5-0 record, one earned run in 29 innings, 0.24 ERA. Think about that.
“I throw the curveball a lot, probably about 80 percent of the time,” Streit said then.
“Streit will really fool you,” Riddle, the first baseman, said. “Batters think he’s easy to hit until he throws those slow curves in there.”
“Streit had a gutty performance (against N. Davidson),” Hunt said.
“Can you imagine throwing that kind of stuff and then Denny Key coming in shoving that fastball?” Streit said last week. “That was a good combination we had. McClannon threw a nasty breaking ball, too, but he threw his a whole lot harder than I threw mine, and he had some heat on his fastball.”
The individual stats appeared in the Enterprise following the 14th game, but that was the last time they were printed. It’s unknown what Streit’s final numbers were, and that’s a bummer because he had a dream season.
“I think I went 6-1 that year, but I could be wrong,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CPC race was a carnival ride for the War Eagles. When they beat South Rowan 6-2 and Mt. Tabor beat West Forsyth, Davie, North Davidson and West Forsyth were all 9-4, and Reynolds was a game back at 8-5.
In the final regular-season game, the War Eagles tore through visiting Kannapolis 7-1 to finish in a three-way tie for first. It was their first conference title since 1971.
In the first round of the playoffs, McClannon outdueled East Gaston’s John White as Davie survived 1-0. McClannon tossed his second no-hitter and fanned nine. White pitched a one-hitter in defeat. The one hit came in the fifth, when Danny Shore singled between short and third. After Mike Beck walked, both runners advanced on Robert Moore’s sac bunt. An errant pickoff attempt at second allowed Shore to score.
In the next round, Davie succumbed to Grimsley’s mighty fireballer, Ethan Albright, who worked five hitless innings in relief and led a 4-2 decision.
Despite the second-round loss to a 14-9 Grimsley team, it was a special season that saw Davie (17-5) achieve the then-record for season wins. Third baseman Richardson (.316, team-high 18 RBIs), shortstop Eric Naylor (team-high .350 average, two homers), Riddle (.327, 18 walks), second baseman Callison (leadoff batter, 17 runs) and Key (6-2, two saves, 2.43 ERA) made all-conference.
Meanwhile, Streit’s breakout year yielded him a look from Elizabeth City State.
“That was the only (offer) I got,” he said. “They sent me a letter and called me on the phone. They saw me when they were there to see somebody else. They offered me my junior year. They said: ‘We want you to come and pitch for us next year.’ I said: ‘I’ve got one problem with that. I’ve got one more year of high school.’ They said: ‘Well, see you the next year.’ That was that. I never heard from them again.”
In the summer of ‘87, Streit played briefly for the Mocksville Legion, working 1.2 innings in two relief outings. He moved over to the Davie Big League team (ages 16-18) and pitched for Hunt.
Streit was/is a free spirit and he transferred to West Forsyth for his senior year. But he never suited up for the Titans. While his high school career lacked an appropriate encore performance, he can always reminisce about the spring of ‘87, when he mastered Uncle Charlie and turned batters knees to Jell-O.
“I couldn’t throw it right now if my life depended on it, but I didn’t have any problems back then,” he said. “It had a lot of bite on it. It had a lot of bend in it. Good luck. I don’t even know how they hit it if they did hit it. I helped send Chris Callison to Catawba. I got groundballs to second all the dadgum time. It was either 4-3 or they popped it up.”