Are you enjoying your first-place Asheville Tourists? The T’s have been on top of the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Southern Division since the second half of the season began, following the league’s All-Star break.
But Asheville doesn’t have first place to itself. The Savannah Sand Gnats, who won the first-half division title, currently have the same 15-5 record as the Tourists (as of July 9). Both teams are blowing away the rest of the competition, however, holding a six-game lead over the other five teams in the division.
That makes next week’s three-game series between the Tourists and the Sand Gnats rather important. Savannah will visit McCormick Field Tuesday through Thursday. If you haven’t been to a game yet this season, this could be the time to go. Maybe you’ll even bump into Owen Wilson.
It’s not a make-or-break series, of course. There are still plenty of other games to be played on the schedule. But winning two of three — or sweeping three games — from their closest rival would be a nice accomplishment for this team, and might provide more of a confidence boost through the remaining six weeks of the season.
Asheville and Savannah will face each other once more next month, with a three-game set at Grayson Stadium from Aug. 11-13. The Tourists took two of three games during their last visit to Savannah in early June.
Pitcher Zach Jemiola is jamming
When a team is playing as well as the Tourists are, many things are going right and many players are obviously playing well. But someone who’s been thriving during the past few weeks has been starting pitcher Zach Jemiola.
In his past four starts, the 20-year-old California native has allowed one run overall. Yes, you read that right. During that span, Jemiola has thrown 26 1/3 innings and surrendered just one run. I was an English major in college, but my math says that works out to a 0.35 ERA. He allowed 21 hits, issued six walks and struck out 12 batters.
Would you believe Jemiola, the Rockies’ ninth-round pick (No. 288 overall) in 2012, was the winning pitcher in only one of those four games? That’s a testament to how deceiving a win-loss record can be for a pitcher and why it’s not typically viewed as a gauge for a starter’s performance anymore.
As a team, the Tourists even lost one of those contests when they couldn’t score any runs against Augusta pitchers Sean Townsley and Sam Alvis. Jemiola allowed no runs over eight innings, but reliever Jefri Hernandez gave up four in the ninth, resulting in a 4-0 loss.
For the season, Jemiola has a 6-7 record and 4.68 ERA in 17 starts. He faces the Rome Braves on Wednesday (July 9) as the Tourists close out their latest homestand. Will his run of success continue or have we jinxed him here? Fingers are crossed.
UNCA alum Tony Campana on the move
At the beginning of the season, Ashvegas reader JT commented that he’d like to see some coverage of UNC Asheville alums who are either in the major leagues or on the verge of breaking out of the minors. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot to report during this season so far. But one former Bulldog did find himself on the MLB news ticker over the holiday weekend, as he was involved in a trade between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels.
Outfielder Tony Campana, who played at UNCA from 2005 to 2007, and pitcher Joe Thatcher were dealt from Arizona to Anaheim in exchange for minor leaguers Zach Borenstein and Joey Krehbiel. Campana, 28, was on Arizona’s major league roster throughout April and had a brief stint with the team in June, but has played most of the season with the D-Backs’ Triple-A Reno affiliate. In 47 games, he batted .288 with a .343 on-base percentage and 17 RBI.
The Angels assigned Campana to their Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake, where he’s hitting .333 in four games (19 plate appearances) thus far. But if and when they need someone who can play center field and provide some speed on the basepaths, he’ll likely get the call up to Anaheim.
McCormick Field getting some upgrades
When the Tourists announced the 2015 SAL All-Star Game would be played in Asheville, team president Brian DeWine mentioned that McCormick Field would be getting some upgrades in preparation for the event. Last week, the Asheville Citizen-Times‘ Keith Jarrett reported that the Tourists are getting $375,000 from the city as part of its five-year Capital Improvement Program.
The team already put $100,000 of that money toward renovating the visitors clubhouse, while the remaining $275,000 will pay for the conversion of up to 2,000 seats in the general admission area from bleachers to individual seats with chair-backs. The seats will be changed during the offseason.
*** The Asheville Tourists return to McCormick Field on Tuesday July 15 for three games. Wednesday is “Doggies at the Diamond” night, when you bring your dog to the ballpark. And the next night is a Thirsty Thursday. Single game tickets are currently available at the McCormick Field box office. For more information, contact the Tourists’ front office at (828) 258-0428.
Ian Casselberry covers Major League Baseball at The Outside Corner and provides analysis for The WISE Guys on ESPN Asheville (1310 and 970 AM) every Tuesday at 4:40 p.m. Follow Ian on Twitter.