ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 10, 2020) — Baseball – Greensboro’s Guilford College (pictured) and all the state’s college baseball diamonds closed for the spring sometime around mid-March due to the current COVID-19 crisis. While college baseball is officially done for the 2020 season, the status of the state’s minor and college summer leagues remains up in the air.
Books— With life as we’ve come to know it on hold due to the pandemic, a trip to a local Asheville bookstore to see what this spring’s new baseball books hold isn’t the easy thing it once was. To fill the gap, there are more baseball books than can ever be read already in print, many of them unfortunately worth missing. Such is not the case for The Classic Mantle by Buzz Bissinger which includes a plentiful serving of photos from Marvin E. Newman. With due deference to Bissinger’s well-paced storytelling, Newman’s photos make it worth the purchase. Here’s a review of the book from the summer of 2015, when I first came across the keeper.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (December 17, 2019) — Tourists Baseball — As reported nationally last month, Major League Baseball (MLB) is considering a major realignment of its current network of 160 affiliated minor-league teams. Plans call for the potential elimination of 42 currently-affiliated teams following the 2020 season when the existing Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) expires. The PBA governs the relationship between MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB). Some leagues, such as the 80-year-old Pioneer League, would be eliminated from affiliation in their entirety.
The Tourists were not listed on the42-team “Hit List” (as it’s been informally dubbed) of teams targeted as candidates for unaffiliation. MLB cited multiple factors in their decision for which teams to potentially eliminate, including the proximity of a club to its parent organization.
The Colorado Rockies are the Tourists’ current parent, and the distance between Coors Field in Denver and Asheville’s McCormick Field is 1,447 miles, making speculation reasonable that the Tourists could align themselves with a new parent team following 2020. The 42-team list includes the teams directly above the Tourists (High Class-A Lancaster JetHawks) and a franchise below them (Rookie League Grand Junction Rockies), meaning in the very least there would be reconfiguring within the Rockies’ system. Even in non-PBA renewal years, a minor league team realigning with a new parent is a common occurrence for a variety of logistical and economic reasons.
Parent organizations typically pay for a minor league organization’s coaches and players, while the local franchise covers the cost of everything else (the field, equipment, uniforms, and travel, among other expenses). Teams eliminated from MLB affiliation would have the opportunity to join a proposed “Dream League” with rosters populated largely by undrafted and released players, and receiving a yet-to-be-defined level of support from MLB that would fall well short of the current financial arrangement provided with affiliation.
An additional alternative for newly unaffiliated teams would be aligning with existing independent leagues, such as the 21-year-old Atlantic League. Independent leagues formally operate outside of MiLB, however, they routinely interact as players are signed and released from team rosters, with independent league players typically seeking a return to the improved advancement prospects of MiLB.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 19, 2019)– College Soccer – As Western North Carolina’s women’s college soccer teams start into their 2019 schedules in the next two weeks, a familiar name will return to the sidelines at Brevard College. Ashley Hughes, the top WNC scorer among all men’s and women’s soccer players last year, will return to Brevard this fall and serve under fourth-year head coach Juan Mascaro as a volunteer assistant coach.
Hughes holds the Brevard NCAA-era records for single-season goals scored (19), points (41), shots (81), shots-on-goal (50), games played (19), and games started (19). She was named Brevard’s female athlete-of-the-year in 2018-2019.
At the NCAA DI level, Western Carolina (8-8-2) gets underway on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. against Gardner-Webb. The UNCA Bulldogs (3-9-4)return to Greenwood Soccer Field to host American this Friday at 6:00 p.m. UNCA and Western Carolina are set to square off against each other on Wednesday, September 18, in Asheville.
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.
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 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 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.