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. (August 11, 2019) – Heading into Saturday’s game, the Tourists had a 26-21 record in the second half of the Sally League season, and were a half-game behind first-place Augusta in the circuit’s Southern Division. Asheville was 55-62 overall on the year.
The Lexington Legends captured the Southern Division first-half title and barring a late surge are unlikely to repeat as second-half champions, precluding the need for a wild-card team to face them in the playoffs. Relating that to Asheville, the Tourists will almost certainly need to finish in first place in this half of the year to make the postseason.
Although currently on the seven-day injured list, second baseman Terrin Vavrais currently leading the Tourists in hitting and is second in the Sally League with a .318 batting average. Vavra was drafted in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft as a shortstop out of the University of Minnesota.
In his last year with the Golden Gophers, the Menomonie, Wisconsin, native was part of a team that went 44-15 andbowed out in the Super Regionalround to eventual-champion Oregon State. He hit .386in his junior season to conclude his college career. Vavra spent the remainder of 2018 with the short-season Boise Hawks where he hit .302 in 44 games and made the jump to Asheville this spring. Early last month, Vavra was named the Sally League’s player of the month for June.
Leading the Tourists on the hill this season is reliever Jake Bird, who is 7-1 on the year with 36 appearances. Some of Bird’s most important work has come in recent weeks, as his last four appearances have each been for four or more innings and resulted in two Asheville wins. The right-hander from Newhall, California, is 11-2 lifetime in two seasons with the Rockies’ organization.
After concluding their current series with Greensboro on Sunday, the Tourists return home to McCormick Field to host the Rome Braves (23-24, 53-63) at 7:05 p.m. on Monday night.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 4, 2019) – Tourists Baseball – Tourists’ starter Frederis Parra (below)got off to a rocky start on Sunday afternoon against the Lakewood Blue Claws, but Asheville’s bats quickly came to the rescue en route to a 13-6 victory. After the Blue Claws hit Parra early and often to open the game with a 2-0 lead, Asheville roared back with eight runs in the bottom of the first to take an 8-2 lead. The Tourists then scored in the next four innings to effectively seal the outcome. The win was the first in six attempts against Lakewood this season. Parra earned the victory and is now 2-1 on the year.
Asheville hitters were aided by 11 walks from a Lakewood (18-23, 47-64) staff that struggled to find the plate, but had no trouble locating the batter’s box as Blue Claws’ pitcher hit three Tourists’ batsmen. Shortstop Coco Montes had just one hit in six at-bats but made it count when he drilled a two-run homer to right-center in the third inning. First baseman Grant Lavigne went 4-4 with an RBI, while Daniel Montano drove in four for Asheville (24-19, 53-60).
The Tourists return to McCormick on Monday night to host the Blue Claws again. The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (July 21, 2019) – Shortstop Terrin Vavra lined home the winning run on Saturday night in the bottom of the ninth to give Asheville a 3-2 walk-off win against the Rome Braves. The win pulled Asheville to an even 15-15 in the second half of the season and 44-56 overall in their 100th game of the 2019 campaign. It was the seventh walk-off win for the Tourists this year.
Rome (16-14, 46-53) drew even with Asheville in the top of the inning when Brendan Ventner doubled home Jose Bermudez to tie the game at two. In the bottom of the frame, the first two Asheville batters went down quietly before centerfielder Niko Decolati drilled a two-out double to centerfield off Braves’ reliever Ryan Shetter. The left-handed-hitting Vavra then took a Shetter offering the opposite way on a line to left field, scoring Decolati and spilling the Tourists out on the field to mob the shortstop in celebration. Vavra has 12 hits in his last 10 games for Asheville and is batting .318 on the season.
Nick Bush started the game for Asheville and pitched 6.2 innings, allowing only one run. Reliever PJ Poulin was the beneficiary of Vavra’s game-winning single, picking up the win and moving to 3-3 on the season in 39 relief appearances.
Asheville and Rome returned to the diamond today at 2:05 p.m. in the series finale.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (July 14, 2019) – Asheville City’s men’s team saw its 2019 campaign come to an end on Saturday evening at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium in the NPSL’s Southeast Conference final.
Chattanooga FC prevailed by a 4-1 margin over its rival city to the northeast to advance to play Miami FC (9-1-0) on Tuesday at South Florida’s Barry University. A crowd of 2,800+ was on hand including a vocal contingent of Blues’ fans who made the 200-mile trip from Asheville. Threatening skies and intermittent downpours marked the evening throughout.
Midfielder Chris Allan (Jarrow, England) had Asheville’s sole score in the game’s 39th minute on a penalty kick to pull the team within a goal of Chattanooga (7-2-1) at 2-1. The hosts responded with two goals in the second half to seal the conference championship.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (July 8, 2019) – Asheville City – Last week saw a combined three games for the two Asheville City soccer squads.
On Wednesday, the women’s side played Oak City United in the Carolinas Conference semifinal in Raleigh and came away with a 2-0 win. It was the first postseason game, and victory, in the second-year program’s history.
Molly Dwyer, who scored the game-winner at Memorial Stadium on June 29, opened the scoring against Oak City (5-3-0) in the game’s 36th minute and the Blues took a 1-0 lead into halftime. With just four minutes left in regulation, Jennifer Cudjoe scored off her own rebound to put the Blues up 2-0 and effectively seal the win.
A contingent of Blues fans traveled to Raleigh for the game, while a hometown crowd headed to Hi-Wire Brewing locally to watch the game on the big screen. Between the first and second goals for Asheville City, a “phantom” goal appeared for Oak City on the (soundless) live stream, making the score appear to be 1-1 for a good portion of the game. To the relief of the locals, the technical problem was later fixed and the Blues returned to a 1-0 lead en route to the 2-0 victory.
On Friday night, the Asheville City men’s team won in dramatic fashion over Atlanta SC at Memorial Stadium in their regular season finale. As regulation time expired, Asheville (5-3-2) and Atlanta (1-8-1) were locked in a scoreless tie as the press box announced four minutes of added time. Two minutes into extra time, Ireland’s Ross Fitzpatrick followed up a Jamie Smith header with one of his own to beat the Atlanta goalie and secure the 1-0 win.
The Blues already had a playoff berth secured prior to the contest and the victory moved them into third place of the NPSL Southeast Conference Division with a 5-3-2 record. Asheville City’s next game is a first-round playoff contest against Greenville FC (5-1-4) at UT-Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium at 4:30 p.m. this Friday. The two rivals have played twice this season, with each game resulting in a tie.
The Blues’ women’s team was back in action in the Carolinas Conference final on Saturday against the undefeated Charlotte Eagles.
The Eagles (8-0-1) moved out to an initial 1-0 lead in the game’s 60th minute. Asheville responded in the game’s 83rd minute when Warren Wilson graduate Bianca Canizio knotted the score at one. Charlotte’s Skyler Prillaman immediately responded to put the Eagles back in the lead, 2-1.
Asheville City’s Mariah Powers just as quickly tied the scored back up off a corner to make it 2-2. The two goals are the most that Charlotte has yielded this season. Prillaman scored her third goal of the game in added time to give the Eagles the 3-2 victory and advance them in the WPSL playoffs.
On the year, the Blues’ women’s side finished with a 4-5 WPSL mark, good for second place in the Carolina Conference’s South Division.
ASHEVILLE (July 2, 2019) – The Asheville City women’s team qualified for the WPSL postseason on Saturday in dramatic style with a 1-0 Pride Night win before a large crowd of 1,500+ at Memorial Stadium. Molly Dwyer put home a penalty kick in the game’s 86th minute to break up a 0-0 tie and propel the Blues to victory over Beaufort County FC (2-4-2) and into the playoffs. The team plays again on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. in Raleigh against Oak City United in the Carolinas Conference semi-finals.
Asheville City’s men’s soccer team is back at Memorial Stadium this Friday for the final regular season game for either club at home this year. The Blues face Atlanta SC, a team they defeated on May 18 in Atlanta by a 3-1 margin.
Asheville (4-3-2) was on the road last Saturday and dropped a 3-1NPSL Southeast Conferencedecision to Chattanooga FC. On Friday night the team played to a 1-1 tie in a friendly against Georgia Revolution FC, in a game that saw the Blues feature a number of call-ups from their AC Academy team. Asheville earlier qualified for the NPSL postseason. Check back here for updates on their first playoff game.
Asheville Tourists – On Monday night, the Tourists’ Greg Jones hit a walk-off grand slam in Hobbsian-style to propel Asheville to a 9-8 win over Lexington. Jones entered the game late as a defensive replacement in rightfield (Jones is a catcher) for a short-handed Tourists’ team. With the win, the Tourists won their second straight after Shelby Lackey picked up his third win of the season in a 6-1 defeat of Charleston on Sunday night.
Asheville (5-7 second half, 34-48 overall) faces Lexington (3-9, 40-41) again tonight with a first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. at McCormick Field.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 28, 2019)– Tourists Baseball – Asheville was on the road Friday night facing the Charleston RiverDogs in Charleston, South Carolina. The Tourists were 3-5 through eight starts in the second half of the Sally League season and even with the RiverDogs in the standings heading into the game.
The University of the Pacific (Calif.)’s Shelby Lackey proved the team’s innings workhorse in the first half of the 2019 campaign and will look to turn around his 2-7 overall mark in the second half of the season. The righty logged 70.2 innings of work, tops on the Asheville staff this year. He also struck out 82 batters while yielding 19 walks.
The Linden, California, native was an 18th-round draft pick for the Rockies in 2018 after going a 6-3 record for the Pacific Tigers as a junior. Lackey spent last year with the short-season Boise Hawks and registered a 1.60 ERA in 21 appearances, paving the way for his promotion to Asheville at the start of this season.
Asheville City – ACSC played a doubleheader at home on Tuesday night with mixed results. The men’s side opened the evening with a 0-0 tie against rival Greenville FC. The Blues were 4-2-3 within the NPSL following the match, and the draw with Greenville qualified them for the postseason. It also earned the Blues this year’s Carolina Clasico trophy. The two teams played to 2-2 and 0-0 draws this season, but Asheville City captured the annual series by virtue of total away goals (2).
Asheville City was back in action at home on Friday night when they hosted GeorgiaRevolution FC at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
On Tuesday night, in the second game of the soccer twin bill, the Blue’s women’s side dropped a 2-0 decision to theCarolinas Conference-leadingCharlotte Eagles (7-0-0). The Eagles have allowed just two goals this season in seven outings. The Blues (3-4-0) applied consistent pressure in the first half but failed to break through. Asheville City broke the WPSL single-game attendance record on Tuesday with 1,847 fans on hand for the game.
On Saturday, Asheville City hosts Beaufort County F.C.at Memorial at 7:30 p.m.If the Blues win, they earn a spot in the WPSL postseason.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 21, 2019) – Head to any Asheville City women’s soccer game and you’ll notice that #17, Sarah Jacobs, a second-year midfielder for the Blues, seldom leaves the field. It’s true during the game and it’s true for the larger arc of her career. The former Clemson standout was a four-year letter winner for the Tigers and the team’s MVP in 2010. Jacobs is a Greenville, S.C, native and continues to remain active as a player, although her primary vocation has switched to that of head coach ofAnderson University (S.C.)’s women’s soccer team.
Fieldhouse spoke with Jacobs about the integration of coaching and playing, returning to Asheville for a second season, and the World Cup’s impact on her day-to-day. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Fieldhouse: How did you hear about Asheville City?
Jacobs:I was at a recruiting event and I ran into Lydia (Vandenbergh – the head coach at Warren Wilson College and a player-owner for ACSC) and we had played together several years ago for a W-league team in Greenville called the Carolina Elite Cobras. She mentioned it to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re starting a team up in Asheville this summer, if you’re interested.’ At that point, I was just an assistant at Anderson and didn’t know what I was going to do next – if I was going to try to play again or not.
Then I became the head coach at Anderson and really wanted to keep playing at some level and in some way. So I reached out to her and went to one of the tryouts and it was all good from there.
Fieldhouse: It must time out well with your college semester ending in the spring.
Jacobs: It’s perfect because our girls aren’t really on campus; no one is really around and it’s pretty quiet in the summers. It’s a good time to have some time to myself and to use it to play soccer. It’s been helpful from a coaching standpoint to learn in a different environment as well.
Fieldhouse: I can picture the benefit when coaching to still playing. What have you seen?
Jacobs: I think it immediately gives you some credibility and the girls buy in a bit more if you can still play on the field. I think it’s also nice to be able to demonstrate exactly what you want done, whether it’s hitting a long ball or chip or how you want to take your first touch and open up on the field.
I’m really able to coach at a different level when I play with a team. I’m able to see things a lot differently and I’m able to direct them on things positionally that it’s a little bit harder to see on the sideline. So I think it’s super helpful.
Fieldhouse: What made you decide to return to Asheville this year?
Jacobs: I always had intentions of coming back as long as nothing changed on my end. I really enjoy being in Asheville and the organization has been great and the crowd support and fans have just been amazing.
It’s incredible. I really cannot believe how much Asheville gets behind the soccer teams and just the environment that they create has probably been the coolest place that I’ve played, and I’ve played in a lot of places. So, really in my mind, I was planning on playing again and nothing changed so we just confirmed things and were good to go.
Fieldhouse: You tend to be in the game most of the time, even at midfield, for the games I’ve seen.
Jacobs: I have gotten a lot of playing time in the games I’ve been available for and I think I do have a pretty good fitness base. I work out all year and I do a lot of running and cross-fit in the offseason, so that helps keep me in shape, along with playing with my team and sometimes I’ll play in the adult rec leagues around Greenville.
I love being out on the field and I feel like I’m able to organize and direct things a lot while I’m out there. I feel like I do a little bit of coaching while I play. That’s always nice. I’ve played a little bit more of a defensive/holding midfielder role this year as opposed to last year where I played a bit more of an attacking role. Especially with Lydia being out this year, I stepped into that piece of things a little more.
It’s still been really fun; some of the results have been disappointing but I still love being out there.
Fieldhouse: What’s the difference between this year and last year in the WPSL that you’ve seen? It seems like it’s improved in its level of competitiveness.
Jacobs: The WPSL has a lot of teams, so there can be a wide range in ability and how they’re structured and how much support they get both behind the scenes and from the fans. This year I would say our conference (Carolinas Conference), in particular, has been much more competitive.
They took our conference and broke it into two divisions (North/South) which I think is good. Our games are much more competitive. Even though we’ve lost some it’s more enjoyable to play competitive games than just smash teams.
Another big thing has been the addition of the Charlotte Eagles to our conference because they’ve not been in the WPSL for the last couple of years. They decided to join again this year and have a super-strong team. So that has also raised the level. Even on the other side of the conference (the North Division), those teams look like they have stepped it up and improved from last year.
Fieldhouse: You mentioned getting in training time with the NC Courage (of the NWSL, the highest level women’s pro circuit in the US). Talk about how that happened.
Jacobs: I just reached out to them a couple of weeks ago, because they lost a lot of players to the World Cup. They have eight gone – seven are playing and one is broadcasting. I had done a similar thing with the Orlando Pride back when the Olympics were going on. They then invited me to come train with them for the next couple of weeks and continuing playing games for Asheville, which has been really good.
The training and environment here have just been incredible. It’s a whole other pace and physicality and technicality. The players are really good and it’s been a good experience for me to continue training at that level.
I don’t know that it will actually lead to anything because those players will soon be coming back and there aren’t many rosters spots and there isn’t much of a need for additional players at that point, but you never know. Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy it for the training environment and learn from their coaching staff and the experience as a whole.
Fieldhouse: Beyond training with NC Courage, do you notice anything different or unique as a player while the Women’s World Cup is going on?
Jacobs: The World Cup is great and I think it’s really good exposure for women’s soccer and women’s athletics in general. It’s cool to see celebrities Tweeting about it and things like that.
I know that we watch a lot of games together as a team, both in Asheville and here at the Courage. The coaches and players are always talking about it. We’re often group texting about certain calls or certain goals and it just helps us stay connected when we’re not together at practice.
It’s been an interesting World Cup so far with some surprise teams. It’s good from a coaching perspective, too, to sit back and analyze the game a little bit and try and observe what the other teams are doing, and how you would counteract that and try to use it as a learning experience as well.
Fieldhouse: What’s the goal for the final three games of the season for Asheville City? Obviously, it’s always to win, but anything specific beyond that?
Jacobs: We just want to see some results. We’ve gone three games with losses, and so we want to prove to ourselves that we can get those results and those wins and we want to have fun doing it as well.
We’re connecting more as a team as we’re playing. We’re working defensively on pressing together and offensively, we’re trying to build a bit more through the midfield and connect with our forwards. We really want to make the most of these last few games and get some results.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 18, 2019) – College Baseball – UNCA’sBrandon Lankford, who last month was named as a first-team member of the Big South’s All-Conference squad, added a North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association (NCCSIA) All-State honor to his postseason awards last week. He was joined on the All-State team by fellow Bulldogs Austin Fahr (pitcher) and Greg Gasparro (pitcher-outfielder).
Lankford is also one of ten players who will play summer league baseball this year for UNCA. He’s currently playing for the Sanford (Maine) Mainers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). Other Bulldogs active this summer include: Chris Troost (Southern Collegiate), Anthony Cuozzi (Coastal Plains), PJ Heintz (Southern Collegiate), JP Perez (Southern Collegiate), Tyler Serricchio (NECBL), Jacob Edwards (The Valley League), Wade Chandler (CVCL), Dominic Freeberger (Futures) and Hunter Hoopes (The Valley League).
In the area college ranks, the Brevard Tornados named Mike Victoryas their new head coach this week. Victory arrives from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and also served on the staff for USA Baseball and St. Mary’s College (Md.), where he was a pitcher as an undergraduate. On the diamond, the Tornados had second baseman Ryan Roon named to the NCCSIA All-State team within the college division category. He’s the first Tornado named to the squad since 2015, and the only player on the team in the college division from the western North Carolina area.
Tourists Baseball – The Tourists concluded the first half of their season with a 29-41 mark after dropping a 6-5 decision to the Lakewood BlueClaws on Monday. The Sally League is now on a three-game All-Star break, with the Tourists returning to play on Thursday when they host the Columbia Fireflies at 7:05 p.m. at McCormick Field. The South Atlantic League splits the season into two halves, so the Tourists will begin Thursday’s game with a 0-0 mark, along with the rest of the circuit.
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.