Tom is a freelance journalist and has contributed to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun among others. He is the author of three books.
Locally, he's a regular contributor to the Asheville Citizen-Times and Blue Ridge Outdoors
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 10, 2019) – Beneath intermittent downpours on Friday night, the Asheville City Blues women’s side dropped a 2-1 WPSL decision to the Charleston Fleet. In the game’s 22nd minute, the Fleet’s Meghan Cavanaugh headed in the first goal off an assist from Maddy Brill Edwards. Mackenzie Crittenburger later had what proved the decisive goal for the Fleet in the game’s 80th minute.
The Blues kept the late pressure up and four minutes later Camryn Bullock scored on a putback off an initial shot from Megan McCallister to draw the Blues to within a goal. That’s as close as Asheville City would get before time expired as the skies opened up at Memorial. With the loss, the Blues dropped to 3-1-1 in WPSL matches, and 4-2-1 overall. They return home to host FC Carolina Discoveries on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The last time the two met, Asheville City defeated FC Carolina handily on May 25 with a 5-0 victory on the road in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
On Saturday, Asheville City’s men’s team had its game against Greenville postponed due to heavy rains. They’re next set to take the field on Tuesday, June 18 when they face Chattanooga FC at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 5, 2019) – Asheville City – The Asheville City men’s soccer team turned the table on Inter Nashville FC with a 1-0 victory in Nashville on Saturday. The Blues fell by the same score to Nashville (2-2-1) earlier in the season on May 7. Frank Rosenwald scored the game-winner for Asheville in the game’s 17th minute.
With the victory, the team moved to 3-1-1 in the NPSL, good for sole possession of first place within the Southeast Conference.They return this Saturday to face Greenville FC at Memorial Stadium at 7:00 p.m. Asheville and Greenville played to a 2-2 draw on May 11at Greenville’s Sirrine Stadium. The winner will decide the annual rivalry between the two teams, dubbed the Carolina Clasico.
The Blues’ women’s side dropped a 3-1 friendly to the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on Saturday on the road in Tennessee. The game followed a victory by the same score over Beaufort SC (1-1) in Hilton Head, South Carolina on Friday night. Asheville City is now 2-0 on the season in Carolinas Conference-South Division matches, and 4-1-1 in six overall starts. Abbie Brown scored twice against Beaufort, and Megan McAllister had the Blues’ other goal.
Asheville City hosts the Charleston Fleet FC (2-2) this Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in a divisional matchup.
Tourists Baseball –Terrin Vavra, Willie MacIver, Alexander Martinez, and Jake Bird will represent the Tourists in the South Atlantic League’s All-Star Game on June 18 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, West Virginia. Martinez currently leads the circuit with 11 saves out of the pen for Asheville, while bullpen mate Bird has made 22 appearances and limited opposing batters to a .237 batting average. MacIver paces the Tourists at the plate with eight home runs, while Vavra is sixth in the league with a .318 batting average while playing shortstop. The Sally League’s All-Star break runs from June 17-19.
The Tourists are 24-34 to date after dropping a 7-6 decision in extras to the Augusta GreenJackets (29-29) at home on Tuesday night. The two teams will play the final game of the three-game set tonight at McCormick Field, with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.
College Baseball – Western Carolina’s sophomore third baseman Justice Bigbie was named the 2019 SoCon Player of the Yearin late May. Its the 19th time since WCU joined the conference in 1977 that a Catamount has earned the honor. Bigbie batted .371 to top the league and added 12 home runs and 50 RBIs. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native returned to the Northwoods League this year to play summer league college baseball for the Madison (Wis.) Mallards.
Local Preps – Asheville School’sRachel Kuehn was selected by the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) as the National Senior Girls’ Golf Athlete of the Year. Kuehn is just the second North Carolina athlete to receive the honor in the 20-year history of the award. “This is unprecedented for an Asheville School athlete to get this kind of recognition,” said Asheville School athletic director Carl Boland. Kuehn won her third consecutive NCISAA Division II state championship last fall and will attend Wake Forest this upcoming fall on a golf scholarship. For the full release, click here.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 31, 2019) – Tourists Baseball – The Tourists served notice of their offensive power this weekend when they scored 30 runs over two games against the West Virginia Power. In Friday night’s win, Asheville had two grand slams in a seven-inning contest en route to a 14-1 victory. The game was the nightcap of a unique twinbill that saw the Tourists (24-31) drop the opener, 6-2, in the resumption of a suspended April 19 game with the Power.
In the second game, Coco Montez had the first grand slam off West Virginia (27-28) starter Ryne Inman. Kyle Datres later made quick work of right-fielder Nick Rodriguez’s offering with the bases loaded in the sixth, depositing it over the leftfield wall and onto the embankment above McCormick Field. Rodriguez came in for mop-up duty in the sixth with West Virginia already trailing 9-0, and looked every bit the part of an outfielder on the mound. Lefty Colten Schmidt (1-2) was sharp on the hill for Asheville and earned his first win of the season.
Asheville bettered that effort with a 16-1 victory on Saturday night. Montes and Datres again homered for the Tourists, with third baseman Danny Edgeworth adding two home runs to the offensive outburst. Lefty Alfredo Garcia (1-4) picked up his first win of the season, striking out eight and allowing just four hits in seven innings of work.
The two teams conclude the weekend series tomorrow at McCormick with the first pitch set for 2:05 p.m.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 29, 2019) – Asheville City’s men’s and women’s sides both won league matchups over Memorial Day weekend.
The women’s side faced FC Carolina Discoveries in their first WPSL game of the year. FC Carolina hosted in Rock Hill, South Carolina and the visiting Blues won in convincing form, coming away with a 5-0 victory.
Asheville City opened the scoring with a shot off the foot of Jennifer Cudjoe in the game’s 28th minute. Abbie Brown added the second goal of the game in its 55th minute. Brown followed up with her second score to put the Blues up 3-0, with Sarah Jacobs scoring late in the second to make it 4-0, Asheville City.
Brown scored in the game’s 98th minute for the hat trick and a 5-0 Blues’ victory.
Asheville City is on the road again this Friday to face Beaufort County SC in their second WPSL match of the season. The Blues (3-0-1, 1-0 WPSL/Carolinas Conference) are undefeated in four starts this spring.
The Blues’ men’s side scored a shutout victory of their own when they defeated the NPSL’s George Revolution on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, 2-0.
The Blues’ Chris Allan opened the scoring in the game’s 31st minute, and Asheville City went into halftime with a 1-0 advantage. In the second, Frank Rosenwald headed in a Dylan Burke corner kick to stake the Blues to a decisive 2-0 lead.
In six games this season, including an April 27 friendly against the Tri-City Otters, Asheville is 3-2-1. The Blues are 2-2-1 in league contests. They travel to face Inter Nashville on June 1, whom they dropped a 1-0 decision to at Memorial Stadium earlier this month.
For a more detailed accounting of both games from the club,click here.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 26, 2019) – Tourists’ right-handed reliever Derrik Watson was hardly a lock to stick in professional baseball beyond a cursory look after being selected in the 25th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. His college numbers were at best underwhelming.
As a senior at Murray State (Ky.) in 2017, he had a 9.89 ERA with a 1-3 record in 21 appearances out of the bullpen, but did strike out 38 of the 105 batters he faced in 23.2 innings of work. Watson arrived at Murray State after spending two seasons pitching for Southwestern Illinois, a junior college twenty miles east of his hometown of St. Louis.
After the draft, Watson spent the remainder of 2017 at Grand Junction (Colo.) and his numbers improved slightly against better opponents, going 1-1 with an 8.15 ERA in 14 relief appearances.
Colorado saw enough in his potential to promote him, and Watson spent a full season here in Asheville in 2018. He ratcheted his ERA down to 4.93 while pitching 34 innings, and again splitting two decisions.
This year, he is improved in nearly every important category. His 11 appearances put him ahead of last year’s pace and he’s lowered his ERA to 2.70. He’s struck out 19 batters in 13.1 innings (1.45 per inning) and it wasn’t until his eighth appearance this season that he yielded an earned run. Hitters are batting .191 against him in 2019, after last year hitting at a healthy .281 clip.
With the promotion of Nick Kennedy in early May, Watson is now behind only Riley Pint as the longest-tenured Tourists pitcher on the current roster. Fieldhouse spoke with Watson recently on pitching in Asheville, adding velocity to his fastball, and staying consistent while working in relief. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Fieldhouse:You’re coming from a hitter’s park in Grand Junction and you’ve got one here in Asheville. As a pitcher with the Rockies, you’re going to see a lot of them right up to Coors Field. Does that impact your approach?
Watson:The biggest thing is just getting ahead in the count, honestly. You can make a perfect pitch and it can still go. I don’t think the park makes that much of a difference; I just try to make hitters use a bigger part of the park if I can. Like trying to make a righty use left-center here.
Fieldhouse: Is there something you’ve done to improve this year, especially in your early outings?
Watson: The biggest thing is trusting all the work that I’ve put in. I put in a lot of time in the offseason so I’ve really trusted that. Last year I had some question marks, so I needed to really prepare for this season. And that’s led me to pitch a little differently.
The year before (2018) I didn’t really do any specific training program. Now I’m getting back into it and learning new things along the way as far as slider spin, change-ups, and other things. That’s all coming into play.
(Note: Watson ascribes to Driveline Baseball, a baseball development program that, for pitchers, relies heavily on utilizing weighted baseballs coordinated with a regimen of drills to increase velocity. He began using it in junior college and recommitted to it during this offseason.)
Fieldhouse: Coming out of the pen, if you’re not starting the inning, you typically come into a situation with runners on base. What are you most confident in throwing this year, especially with runners on?
Watson: Right now, I’m confident in both my fastball and my slider. I can throw those in any count. I think that’s the key – just being able to throw any pitch in any count for a strike. When there are guys on base and I come into a game, as far as I’m concerned those are my runs and they can’t score. Whatever happens after that is just pitch-by-pitch.
Fieldhouse:You talked about going back to using weighted baseballs during the offseason. When did you first get the idea of using them?
Watson: At Southwestern Illinois College, I didn’t pitch much and when I did pitch, it wasn’t very good. I was throwing around 83. After that season, my first season there, I said, “I want to do something different.” So that’s when I started using the weighted balls. My velocity went up and I started getting better.
Fieldhouse: What are you topping out on your fastball now?
Watson: Just depends on the day, but about 94-95.
Fieldhouse: Lastly, talk about what you see in this year’s team in Asheville.
Watson:We’ve got a lot of talent. We’re just trying to piece some things together right now and we’ll see where it goes but we’re going to take it day-by-day and then we’ll start to make a push.
The Tourists (19-29) are currently on the road facing the Rome Braves (25-24) in a four-game set. They return home on Thursday to host the West Virginia Power (23-25) at 7:05 p.m. Asheville is currently in fifth-place behind the Greenville Drive (21-28)in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 19, 2019)–Tourists Baseball– Nick Kennedy, an Asheville early-season success story, was promoted on May 4 to the Advanced-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, the California League’s Lancaster JetHawks. Kennedy is methodically climbing the Rockies’ ladder after getting drafted in 2017 in the fifth-round out of the University of Texas.
Following the draft, he was assigned to the Boise Hawks, where the Tampa, Florida native finished the year before being promoted to Asheville to open 2018. Last year was a long one for the lefty, as he posted a 4-13 mark, primarily as a starter, and a 7.08 ERA. He returned to the Tourists this year and made 12 appearances out of the pen, turning in a 3-0 mark and a 2.08 ERA, with 25 strikeouts in 17.1 innings of work. He also held opposing hitters to a .188 average, earning the notice of the parent club and the promotion to Lancaster.
The Tourists (15-26) are currently on the road facing the Lexington Legends (20-21) in Kentucky. After dropping the series opener in extras on Friday, the Asheville nine bounced back for 9-5 road victory on Saturday. Two games remain in the four-game set with the Legends.
College Baseball– The Western Carolina Catamounts and UNCA Bulldogs both finished their regular season schedules this weekend and will head to their conference tournaments this week.
UNC Asheville took on Gardner-Webb (25-24) to close out their season and opened with a win on Thursday before dropping the next two. Senior lefty Austin Fahrearned the game one victory as he yielded just one earned run and three hits, while striking out six.
UNCA (16-35, 9-18) will face sixth-seeded High Point (23-25, 14-13) on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. at Segra Stadiumin Fayetteville. It’s one of two single-elimination round games in theBig South tournament.
The weekend was a lost opportunity for WCU (20-30, 8-16). Had the Catamounts swept, they would have bypassed the play-in and moved ahead of the VMI Keydets (17-39, 9-15) to grab the #7 seed in the tourney, and a spot in the double-elimination field.
The area’s three other college baseball teams have completed their 2019 season with the following marks: Brevard (10-26, 2-21), Montreat (25-28, 8-19), Mars Hill (19-26, 5-18).
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 14, 2019) – Tourists Baseball – Seven weeks into their South Atlantic League season, the Tourists found themselves 14-22 and 5.5 games off the pace from the Southern Division-leading Charleston RiverDogs (20-17). Asheville has struggled with consistency at times this season with two six-game losing streaks pinning them under .500 to date. They’ve now won three out of the last four after defeating the Greenville Drive (14-22) on Monday night at McCormick Fieldby a 2-0 score.
Alexander Martinez earned his eighth save of the year for Asheville on Monday, tops in the South Atlantic League. Returner Nick Kennedy has also proven effective in relief for Asheville, with a 3-0 mark, 25 strikeouts, and a 2.08 ERA while not yielding a home run in the friendly confines of McCormick Field or on the road this season. The Tourists travel to face the Rome Braves tonight. Rome is two games up on Ashevillein the Southern Divisionwith a 16-20 mark.
Asheville City – After the Asheville City women’s side earned a 2-2 draw on Friday, the men followed suit with the same outcome against Greenville FC on Saturday. It was the first leg of the 2019 Carolina Clasico between the two men’s sides, leaving the deciding game to Saturday, June 8 at Memorial Stadium.See the team’s site for recaps from both matches.
Asheville City’s men’s team gets underway again at Memorial on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. against the SC United Bantams, while the women are scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. friendly on Saturday.
Local Preps – After an extended weather delay stalled the start of their game against Davidson Day, Asheville School’s boys’ lacrosse team used eight second-half goals to earn an 11-5 victory and advance into the second round of the NCISAA playoffs. The Blues scored seven unanswered goals in the third quarter and will travel to face Huntersville’s Southlake Christian Academy (10-4) in the NCISAA DII semi-finals.The face-off is set for 7:00 p.m. tonight.
The Blues girls’ team captured an opening round victory over Davidson Day on May 7but dropped their second-round game to top-seeded Charlotte Latin (12-4) on Friday. Asheville School concluded its season with an 8-3 record on the year after going 5-5 last season.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – (May 10, 2019) – Asheville City’s women’s soccer team went up two goals in the first half, but the Chattanooga Red Wolves fought back with two of their own to tie Friday night’s friendly at Memorial Stadium and earn the 2-2 draw.
The Blues’ Jennifer Cudjoe, a returner from last year’s 8-1-1 squad, put Asheville up 1-0 in the game’s first minute. Krystal Goss later delivered a freekick from near midfield perfectly into the box, and Alessandra Tavoloni was there to finish to put the Blues up 2-0 nearly halfway through the first. The Red Wolves then scored late in the first half to put the score at 2-1 heading into halftime. Chattanooga delivered the equalizer in the game’s 58th minute.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 8, 2019)– Soccer fans heading to see the Asheville City women’s team face Chattanooga on Friday at Memorial will be able to see two UNCA Bulldogs representing the home club, and a third working her way toward a roster spot. The Blues lineup includes goalie Bryson Lee and midfielder Maya Gutman, while fellow midfielderGillian Oyosis not on the active roster but currently trains with the team. Gutman sports #25 for the Blues, while Lee wears #0 in goal. Friday’s game is set to start at 7:00 p.m.
The Blues’ men’s side dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 game to Inter Nashville F.C. before 1,324 fans on Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium. The winner came off a freekick from Nate Grant that Blues’ keeper Pijus Petkevicius initially saved but then bobbled, allowing Nashville’s Victor Tsado to get to the loose ball and put the game-winner away about two minutes into extra time. The team is now 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the NPSL.
The men travel to face NPSL rival Greenville FC at Greenville’s historic Sirrine Stadium on Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Local Preps – Asheville School’s girls’ lacrosse team defeated Davidson Day(9-5) on Tuesday night in Asheville, 9-8. The win moves the team to 8-2 on the season and into the second round of the NCISAA DII playoffs. Senior Caroline Frisch and junior Lien Duke each had a hat trick, and sophomore Bella Baldecchi made several key saves late for the Blues. They’re scheduled to face top-seeded Charlotte Christian (11-4) this Saturday in Charlotte.
The Blues boys’ lacrosse team under head coach Lecky Hollar will also host Davidson Day (8-5) in its first-round NCISAA DII playoff game on Friday at 6:00 p.m. Asheville School is 9-4 overall this season.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2019) – College Baseball – After a long weekend in Atlanta facing #8 Georgia Tech, the WCU Catamounts travel to face SoCon-leading Samford (34-14, 14-4) this upcoming week.
Following that, they play a single game against Eastern Kentucky (26-22) before hosting Citadel (10-36, 3-15 SoCon) on May 16-18 to close out their 2019 regular season schedule. The Southern Conference tournament begins on May 21 with a play-in game between the eight and nine teams in the conference.
The Catamounts (18-25, 7-11) have more than doubled up their 2018 regular-season win total (7) and will try to close the gap on 2017 when they went an even 28-28 on the year. This year’s team has two of the league’s top three hitters in its lineup – Justice Bigbie (.381-11-47) and Matthew Koehler (.371-12-43). The team also has wins over Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State on its 2019 resume.
Furman currently sits at 20-27 overall and in fifth place with a 9-9 record within the SoCon. The Paladins took two-of-three against VMI (8-13, 14-45) this past weekend and are led at the plate by Jabari Richards’.347 average.
The UNCA Bulldogs (14-30, 8-13 Big South) are on a 10-day hiatus after dropping a 10-8 decision to ETSU on April 30 at Greenwood Field. The team returns to face the Big South’s Radford (23-24, 14-7) this upcoming weekend beginning with a 6:00 p.m. start on Friday.
Nine of its ten teams qualify for the Big South conference tournament beginning on May 21. The six through nine seeds play a pair of single-elimination games to gain entry into the double-elimination round of the tournament. Right now, the Bulldogs are in seventh place, a half-game behind USC Upstate and a full game behind Gardner-Webb in fifth place. The Bulldogs’ Greg Gasparro is hitting at a .325 clip, good for ninth place in the circuit and best on the team.