First place in the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Southern Division was on the line this week, as the Savannah Sand Gnats visited McCormick Field for a three-game series with the Asheville Tourists.
Going into Tuesday’s series opener, the Tourists held a 2 1/2-game lead atop the division, their largest margin since the second half of the SAL season began. Unless Savannah swept all three games, Asheville would still be in first place. But this series also gave the T’s a chance to increase that lead. Better yet, there was an opportunity to make a statement and establish themselves as the better team, which could provide a mental edge in a potential playoff series.
If that was the objective, the Tourists accomplished it emphatically. Asheville won all three games from the Sand Gnats, sweeping the series and leaving McCormick Field with a 5 1/2-game lead in their division and 43 games remaining for the season.
Thursday’s series finale was especially dramatic, with the Tourists taking an 8-7 win in 14 innings after squandering a 5-1 lead earlier in the ballgame. Going into the 14th inning, Asheville trailed 7-5 before staging a three-run rally for the win. First baseman Correlle Prime struck the decisive blow, driving in two runs on a double to right-center field.
The Tourists travel to Greenville for a four-game set before returning home next Wednesday (July 23) to begin a seven-game homestand.
Dahl keeps hitting, drawing more attention
Outfielder David Dahl continued his second-half success in the series with Savannah, batting a combined 7-for-17 (.412) in three games with four doubles and four runs batted in. The 20-year-old is now batting .304 with an .842 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), which is the sort of performance many minor league analysts expected from the Colorado Rockies’ 2012 first-round draft pick in his first full-length professional season.
In July, Dahl is hitting .347 with a .932 OPS, on pace for his best month of this season. That success has raised his already high profile among those who follow minor league prospects. Coinciding with the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season, ESPN.com’s Keith Law released his updated list of the sport’s top 50 prospects and Dahl has moved up from his preseason ranking.
Law’s list is behind a paywall as “insider” content for ESPN.com. For those without a subscription, Law moved Dahl up to No. 35 in his rankings, up from No. 47 in the spring. Here’s an excerpt from his notes on the Tourists outfielder:
Dahl worked hard in the offseason and got his body into incredible shape. Now, he’s staying healthy, playing much better defense in center, and hitting for average and power. He’ll need to walk more as he moves up the ladder. Right now, though, he’s having so much success that he’s not running the count deep enough to walk or strike out. He’s a dynamic player who should see high-A before the summer is out.
As we’ve been saying throughout this season, get out to McCormick Field and see Dahl in action while you still have a chance.
Get a Crash Davis Tourists jersey
Fans of the movie Bull Durham know that Kevin Costner’s character Crash Davis ended his playing days with the Tourists, eventually hitting career home run No. 247 and setting the record for the most hit by a minor leaguer. (I had to be reminded of this when I first moved to Asheville. When I told a friend I was going to a Tourists game, he said “That’s where Crash Davis ended his career!” I’m sure many of you have had similar conversations.) You can watch those scenes here, which include the nearly unrecognizable facade of McCormick Field before its 1992 renovation.
On Tues. July 29, the Tourists will give out replica Crash Davis jerseys to the first 1,000 fans in attendance. Personally, I think the jerseys would be a little bit cooler without “Crash” on the back, making people work harder to get the reference. But the nickname on the nameplate makes it instantly recognizable for people if you were to wear this out in public.
*** The Asheville Tourists return to McCormick Field on Wed. July 23 for a seven-game homestand. 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.
Someone asked a question on Twitter that I thought I’d pose here: Does anyone know where that rail bridge at the beginning of the ‘Bull Durham’ scene is located?