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.
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 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 1, 2019) – The Tourists walked off the field on Tuesday night with a 5-4 win against the visiting Hagerstown Suns. The game was tied heading into the bottom of the ninth when Grant Lavigne opened the frame with a double to right field. Lavigne narrowly avoided the tag at second and set the stage for Willie MacIver‘s drive to deep left-center that ended the game and sent the Tourists (9-15) onto the field in celebration.
Picking up the win in relief for the Tourists was lefty Nick Kennedy. Kennedy is a returner for the Tourists this season and struck out two in one inning of relief work and moved to 3-0 on the season for Asheville. Started Alfredo Garcia (below) struck out eight Sun batters in just 4.2 innings but was also hit hard, allowing nine hits and three earned runs.
Right fielder Luke Morgan made his McCormick Field debut an auspicious one when he went 2-4 with two stolen bases for the Tourists. Third baseman Danny Edgeworth made his first appearance in an Asheville uniform after two seasons with the short-season Boise Hawks. The Nashville native singled to center and drove in a run in four plate appearances. The Tourists hosts the Suns (10-15) tonight at 7:05 p.m. in the second game of the three-game series.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 29, 2019) – National – The Carolina Panthers made Florida State’s Brian Burns their #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft last week. Prior to the draft, I contributed a preview article to Forbes on how it might play out for Carolina.
Tourists Baseball– The Asheville Tourists snapped a seven-game skid with an 8-2 victory on Sunday against the West Virginia Power (15-7). Right-hander Shelby Lackey (1-2) proved the stopper when he allowed just one hit in five innings of work while striking out five. The Tourists are now 8-15 on the year and will host Hagerstown (10-14) tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m.at McCormick Field.
Asheville City Soccer– The Blues’ men’s and women’s sides each came away with a win in their opening weekend at Memorial Stadium. The women led off with a 2-1 victory over the sixth-year Columbus Eagles FC on Friday night. The Blues return to play on Friday, May 10 to host the Chattanooga Red Wolves at 7:00 p.m.
On the men’s side, the Blues defeated the Johnson City’s Tri-City Ottersby the same 2-1 score in their 2019 season opener on Saturday night. Their next game is scheduled for May 7 when they host Inter Nashville F.C. in their first NPSL match of the year.
College Lacrosse – The men’s lacrosse spring calendar is complete for area teams, with Brevard (6-7, 3-4), Furman (4-10, 2-5), Lees-McRae (4-10, 0-7), Montreat (4-11, 3-2) and Mars Hill (3-12, 0-8) all finishing their 2019 schedule in late April. Brevard College senior Jackson McKaig registered 52 goals to lead all area scorers this spring and was rewarded with a spot on the USA-South‘s first-team All-Conference squad along with teammate Robert Kokal.
Local Preps – On Saturday, Asheville School fell to the visiting Anderson Cavaliers on the diamond and are now 3-8 on the season, and 1-4 in NCISAA conference play. The Blues travel to face area rival Carolina Day (4-10, 0-4) on Tuesday. The squad is led by head coach Gus Schill, who also leads the Blues on the gridiron each fall.
On the lacrosse field, the Blues boys’ team moved to 8-3 on the year after defeating Johnson City’s Science Hill. In local play this season to date, Asheville School dropped an 18-3 decision to Arden’s nationally-ranked Christ School (16-2) earlier this month, and has two wins over first-year program T.C. Roberson (5-9) and a victory over Asheville Empire‘s club team.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 24, 2019) –Asheville is 7-11 on the young season after dropping a Tuesday night decision on the road to the Delmarva Shorebirds. The Shorebirds (14-2) and Tourists were locked in a scoreless tie through six before Delmarva broke through with four in the seventh and three more in the eighth for the win. Shelby Lackey got the start for Asheville and was effective, allowing just two hits and striking out seven in five complete innings of work. Righty Eric Hepple (0-1) was tagged with the loss after yielding two runs in 1.1 innings of relief work. Lefty Zach Matson picked up the win in relief for Delmarva.
Left fielder Will Golsan is tied for the team lead in home runs to date with four in 67 at-bats. He also leads the team in RBIs with 16. Last year, he hit just three in 63 games for the Rockies’ rookie-league affiliate, Grand Junction (Colo.). He’s a native of Columbus, Mississippi and played his college baseball for Ole Miss, before getting drafted in the 26th round last year. Catcher Will MacIver(left) also has four for the Tourists. MacIver played for the Rockies’ short-season Boise Hawks last year and had five home runs in 54 games. He was drafted in the ninth-round out of Washington last June following a junior season with the Huskies that saw him play both catcher and infield and hit three round-trippers in 170 total plate appearances.
The Tourists return to the field tonight to try to salvage the final game of the three-game series with the Shorebirds with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. Their next home date is on Tuesday, April 30 against the Hagerstown Suns (9-9), the Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
The Bulldogs return to the diamond tonight in Cullowhee to face the SoCon’s Western Carolina (17-18, 6-9). The Bulldogs (13-26, 8-10 Big South) dropped a decision earlier this year to the Catamounts at Greenwood Field. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 8, 2019) – College Tennis – It’s been a banner season for tennis at Brevard College, where junior Samantha Sepe won 96 consecutive games and nine-straight matches at first singles in recent weeks. She recently dropped a single game in a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Covenant College to snap the consecutive-games streak but kept the match streak alive. The Tornados are 5-0 in USA South play and 11-4 overall.
On the men’s side, senior Tom Mittring of Germany extended his singles winning streak to 23 straight matches on Saturday. He’s 13-0 within the USA South. At second singles, fellow countryman Tim Hengst owns an 11-match win streak. The two team up at first doubles for Brevard and are 10-2 on the season.
Tourists Baseball – The Asheville Tourists went 2-2 in their opening series with the Augusta GreenJackets this past week. The Tourists dropped a 9-5 opening day South Atlantic Leaguedecision at McCormick Field last Thursday, but bounced back to take the next two games from Augusta. They were washed out tonight in Charleston (3-1) and will play a twin bill on Tuesday and a single game on Wednesday against the RiverDogs to get in the three-game set.
Third basemanJohn Cresto leads the team in hitting on the young season, with a .417 average in 12 at-bats. Cresto spent 2018 at Grand Junction where he hit .257 in 59 games. He is a native of Encinitas, California and played baseball for Santa Clara University as an undergraduate before turning pro following his junior year.