Three Games, Two Wins for ACSC

Asheville City before last Friday’s match against Atlanta (photo – Isaac Bullman)

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.


This week in Forbes by T. Flynn:

Three Panther QBs will vie for one key backup role to Cam Newton this summer (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)


Fieldhouse Report, 07.02.2019

Asheville City Soccer Blues 2019
Molly Dwyer (center) celebrates after scoring the game-winner (photo – Isaac Bullman)

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 3-1 NPSL Southeast Conference decision 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.  

Books – Keep checking here for updates on the release of Underdog – Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian.” The book project is finishing up and will be released asap this summer. Please email with any questions and thanks for the patience. 

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


The World’s Games. The World’s Stadiums.

Asheville City square

Fieldhouse Report, 06.28.2019

Shelby Lackey
The Tourists’ Shelby Lackey leads the team in innings pitched in 2019 (photo – Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)

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 Soccer Blues ACSC Blues
Asheville City’s Jamie Smith (photo – Isaac Bullman)

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 Georgia Revolution 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 the Carolinas Conference-leading Charlotte 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.

Check back here for results from both games.


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Asheville City’s Jacobs Stays in the Game

Asheville City Soccer ACSC
ACSC’s Sarah Jacobs is also the head coach at South Carolina’s Anderson University (photo – T. Flynn)

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 of Anderson 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.

The Blues return to Memorial Stadium along with the men’s side on Tuesday night as the two teams host a doubleheader beginning at 6:00 p.m. The women’s side faces the Charlotte Eages. 


This week in Forbes by T. Flynn:

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America’s top lacrosse player set to play Big Ten basketball (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire)


Fieldhouse Baseball Report, 06.18.2019

UNCA’s Brandon Lankford (photo – UNCA Athletics)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 18, 2019) – College BaseballUNCA’s Brandon 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 Victory as 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. 


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Blues Fall to Charleston, 2-1

Asheville City Women Soccer
Asheville City’s Sarah Jacobs heads the ball on Friday (photo – Isaac Bullman)

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.


Gracious Food. Southern Roots.

Tupelo Honey Three

Fieldhouse Report, 06.05.2019

Asheville City Soccer Blues 2019 Asheville Soccer
Asheville City returns to Memorial Stadium this Saturday (photo – Isaac Bullman)

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 11 at Greenville’s Sirrine Stadium. The winner will decide the annual rivalry between the two teams, dubbed the Carolina Clasico

Asheville City Womens Soccer Blues Asheville City Blues Soccer
ACSC hosts Charleston in a league matchup this Friday (photo – Isaac Bullman)

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.

Asheville Tourists Baseball
Catcher Willie MacIver was one of four Tourists named to the All-Star team (photo –  T. Flynn)

Tourists Baseball –Terrin VavraWillie MacIverAlexander 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.

Justice Bigbie Western Carolina
The Catamounts’ Justice Bigbie (photo – Ashley Evans/WCU)

College Baseball – Western Carolina’s sophomore third baseman Justice Bigbie was named the 2019  SoCon Player of the Year in 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’s Rachel 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.


The World’s Games. The World’s Stadiums. 

Asheville City square

Tourists Score 30 in Two Games

Asheville Tourists 2019
Asheville’s Danny Edgeworth and Willie MacIver look in after chasing West Virginia’s starter on Friday (photo – T. Flynn)

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.


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Asheville City Sweeps Weekend Matches

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Asheville City scored two victories over the weekend (photos – T. Flynn)

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.


The World’s Games. The World’s Stadiums. 

Asheville City square

Asheville’s Watson Marches Steadily Upward

Derrik Watson
Asheville reliever Derrik Watson (photo – Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)

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.


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