ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 22, 2020) — While its season ended in March, there is still good news coming from the UNCA baseball team, as senior right-hander Blake Brown signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last Thursday. “We are very excited and happy for Blake and his family,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Scott Friedholm in a press release announcing the signing. “He has worked extremely hard over the past few years to put himself in this position. The Phillies are getting an extremely smart and competitive young man.”
Brown is the first Bulldog to sign a contract with an MLB team since pitcher Ryan Dullwas selected by the Oakland A’s in the 32nd round in 2012.
The righty from Dallas, North Carolina, made four appearances in 2020, all as a starter, and posted a 1-0 record, with a 1.89 ERA. He struck out 26 and held opposing batters to a .141 average. Brown struck out a combined 17 batters in his final two starts of the shortened campaign.
Brown will strive to become the fourth Bulldog to make the bigs as a player, following Ty Wigginton, Dull, and Kevin Mattison. Former Bulldog Mike Schildtis currently the skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 4, 2020) — With all sporting and other events involving a gathering of people cancelled at present, it comes as no surprise that Asheville City made the decision to cancel its 2020 men’s and women’s slate of games. The teams intend to return in 2021. During the offseason, the men’s side moved into the USL2while the women will continue to compete in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), next season, where they finished 4-4 in 2019 in league play.
College Soccer— In better news of soccer on the horizon, the Brevard College Tornados women’s soccer team announced its 2020 fall schedule. In addition to their annual slate of USA South foes, the Tornados will play area rival Warren Wilson to conclude their regular season on October 24. Brevard went 5-10-3 last fall.
On the men’s side, a familiar name to Asheville soccer fans, Mathes Mennell, took over as thenew head coach at Warren Wilson early in March. Mennell is the former UNCA head coach (2015-2019) and is currently on staff with Asheville’s ABYSA/Highland Football Club.
Books — As we make our way through an extended period of hardship and close quarters, a good book is one of the best alternatives to the sports we’d typically be enjoying here in Western North Carolina.
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. (Oct. 13, 2019) – College Soccer – As western North Carolina college soccer moves into its final leg of the regular season, here’s an update on the current record of area teams:
NCAA DI: UNCA (3-8-1, 1-4-1 Big South) Mountain Five: Montreat (9-4-1, 6-2-1 AAC (NAIA)), Brevard (4-5-2, 4-2-2 USA South), Lees-McRae (2-6-2, 2-3-1 Conference Carolinas), Warren Wilson (3-4-2, USCAA), Mars Hill (3-7-1, 0-5 SAC)
NCAA DI: UNCA (4-10, 2-4 Big South), WCU (8-6, 2-3 Southern) Mountain Five: Montreat (6-6, 3-6 AAC (NAIA)), Brevard (4-7-3, 3-3 USA South), Lees-McRae (0-10, 0-6 Conference Carolinas), Warren Wilson (5-4-2, USCAA), Mars Hill (1-9-1, 1-4 SAC)
College Football– On the gridiron, the region’s three teams include WCU (1-5, 0-3 Southern), Mars Hill (1-4, 2-1 SAC), and Brevard (3-1, 1-1 USA South). All three were active this weekend, with the Catamounts dropping a Southern Conference decision to the Citadel, and Mars Hill and Brevard also falling in their conference games.
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. – (May 10, 2019) – Asheville City’s women’s soccer team went up two goals in the first half, but the Chattanooga Red Wolves fought back with two of their own to tie Friday night’s friendly at Memorial Stadium and earn the 2-2 draw.
The Blues’ Jennifer Cudjoe, a returner from last year’s 8-1-1 squad, put Asheville up 1-0 in the game’s first minute. Krystal Goss later delivered a freekick from near midfield perfectly into the box, and Alessandra Tavoloni was there to finish to put the Blues up 2-0 nearly halfway through the first. The Red Wolves then scored late in the first half to put the score at 2-1 heading into halftime. Chattanooga delivered the equalizer in the game’s 58th minute.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 8, 2019)– Soccer fans heading to see the Asheville City women’s team face Chattanooga on Friday at Memorial will be able to see two UNCA Bulldogs representing the home club, and a third working her way toward a roster spot. The Blues lineup includes goalie Bryson Lee and midfielder Maya Gutman, while fellow midfielderGillian Oyosis not on the active roster but currently trains with the team. Gutman sports #25 for the Blues, while Lee wears #0 in goal. Friday’s game is set to start at 7:00 p.m.
The Blues’ men’s side dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 game to Inter Nashville F.C. before 1,324 fans on Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium. The winner came off a freekick from Nate Grant that Blues’ keeper Pijus Petkevicius initially saved but then bobbled, allowing Nashville’s Victor Tsado to get to the loose ball and put the game-winner away about two minutes into extra time. The team is now 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the NPSL.
The men travel to face NPSL rival Greenville FC at Greenville’s historic Sirrine Stadium on Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Local Preps – Asheville School’s girls’ lacrosse team defeated Davidson Day(9-5) on Tuesday night in Asheville, 9-8. The win moves the team to 8-2 on the season and into the second round of the NCISAA DII playoffs. Senior Caroline Frisch and junior Lien Duke each had a hat trick, and sophomore Bella Baldecchi made several key saves late for the Blues. They’re scheduled to face top-seeded Charlotte Christian (11-4) this Saturday in Charlotte.
The Blues boys’ lacrosse team under head coach Lecky Hollar will also host Davidson Day (8-5) in its first-round NCISAA DII playoff game on Friday at 6:00 p.m. Asheville School is 9-4 overall this season.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2019) – College Baseball – After a long weekend in Atlanta facing #8 Georgia Tech, the WCU Catamounts travel to face SoCon-leading Samford (34-14, 14-4) this upcoming week.
Following that, they play a single game against Eastern Kentucky (26-22) before hosting Citadel (10-36, 3-15 SoCon) on May 16-18 to close out their 2019 regular season schedule. The Southern Conference tournament begins on May 21 with a play-in game between the eight and nine teams in the conference.
The Catamounts (18-25, 7-11) have more than doubled up their 2018 regular-season win total (7) and will try to close the gap on 2017 when they went an even 28-28 on the year. This year’s team has two of the league’s top three hitters in its lineup – Justice Bigbie (.381-11-47) and Matthew Koehler (.371-12-43). The team also has wins over Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State on its 2019 resume.
Furman currently sits at 20-27 overall and in fifth place with a 9-9 record within the SoCon. The Paladins took two-of-three against VMI (8-13, 14-45) this past weekend and are led at the plate by Jabari Richards’.347 average.
The UNCA Bulldogs (14-30, 8-13 Big South) are on a 10-day hiatus after dropping a 10-8 decision to ETSU on April 30 at Greenwood Field. The team returns to face the Big South’s Radford (23-24, 14-7) this upcoming weekend beginning with a 6:00 p.m. start on Friday.
Nine of its ten teams qualify for the Big South conference tournament beginning on May 21. The six through nine seeds play a pair of single-elimination games to gain entry into the double-elimination round of the tournament. Right now, the Bulldogs are in seventh place, a half-game behind USC Upstate and a full game behind Gardner-Webb in fifth place. The Bulldogs’ Greg Gasparro is hitting at a .325 clip, good for ninth place in the circuit and best on the team.
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 21, 2019) – Fieldhouse recently spoke with Asheville City’smen’s soccer head coach, Mick Giordano. Last year was Giordano’s first as head coach of the Blues and the team’s second campaign ever. Giordano is currently on the UNCA men’s soccer staffand also graduated as a Bulldog after two seasons with the team in 2012 and 2013. He’s previously coached at Wake Forest and Wofford.
The Blues host their 2019 season opener this Saturday (April 27) at Memorial Stadium at 7:00 p.m against the Tri-City Otters.
The interview was conducted at Asheville City’s 2019 launch event on March 28 and was edited for length and clarity.
On the 2019 Squad
We’re looking at carrying 26 to 27 [players] at most on the first team, and then we’re fortunate, we’ve added the AC Academy.That will be some of the younger boys and some will certainly factor in and be pulled up to the first team. They’ll also be able to go back and be in an environment that’s a little bit more suitable for them full-time.
We’re in a good spot with the roster. A lot of what we’ve done this year has been straight recruiting and the staff was fantastic. With us watching games throughout the fall, we probably watched over 150-200 games.
After personal conversations, speaking with coaches, or recommendations that we got from other coaches, we’re pretty happy with the roster. We think that it’s going to be a good group. We’ve got seven coming back; several of them were starting guys that were really important for us.
(Returners include: Bruno Andrade, Lukas Joyner, Luke Matthews (pictured above), Will Mims, Frank Rosenwald, Jamie Smith, and Nathan Watt)
On the Team’s Expanding Reach
We’ve been going and tapping into some new markets in Oklahoma, Colorado, and California where maybe we didn’t know the coach last year, or we didn’t know someone [there] before. Coming back now, the club’s done a really good job with getting its name out and word of how well it treats its players.
Of the boys that played last year, 98% were still in college, and so when they went back – they obviously had a good experience – they spread the word. So, last year we had a lot of interest, and this year we’ve had even more. It’s been awesome in that way. The club’s name is out there.
On Playing in Asheville
Our fans are unbelievable. That certainly makes it easier to talk to a college player coming here in the summer. It’s a great professional environment, and they can play in front of 2,000 – 3,000. It’s almost a no-brainer. So with the try-outs and the recruiting, it was quite nice and quite easy. What was difficult were the decisions to set the roster.
I think you take Detroit, you take Chattanooga, and then you take us and those are the top three environments in the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League). Our fans are at the very top.
It’s crazy – it’s hard to get the boys to hear you sometimes. We’re right there [next to the stands]. We made the change after the first year when our bench was right where the South Slope Blues are. Last year we changed our bench to go where the assistant referee is, on that line.
We’ve got a little notepad that, if we need to, we’ll write notes if the boys can’t hear us and we’ll pass it along to them.
I absolutely love having that environment.
On Coaching in Asheville Year-Round
Coach [Mathes] Mennell, the head coach at UNCA, was actually my first boss in the college game and gave me my first start. So, I’ve been able to come back and join his staff as well which has been great.
Matt Tellez is the other assistant (at both UNCA and with Asheville City) and he’s one of my best friends, so it’s been really fortunate. I came back up and worked with Coach Mennell again and it’s just been fantastic.
On the Team’s Style of Play
We want to be able to have possession. Everyone’s going to say that, but for us it’s not just keeping it, to keep it. It’s up to us to keep it, to break lines, and get the goal and be attacking-oriented. So, we’re going to have this possessing style that has an attacking purpose to it.
On the road, I learned as a first-year coach, there are times in certain environments – on certain fields – that we’re not gonna be able to do that in our conference, unfortunately. So, on the road, just like a pro team, maybe it’s a little uglier, maybe it’s a little bit more direct, maybe it’s just a solid block and you’re defending a little deeper and you’re not pressing, but you go find a way to get a one-nil result.
At the end of the day, one-nil results get you three points, and those get you at the top of the table.