Dash Top 10 – #1: First playoff clinch at BB&T Ballpark

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Dash win at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark
#5 – Winston reclaims first on wild pitch
#4 – Dash power past Pelicans in SDCS Game 1
#3 – Dykstra’s dominant no-hitter
#2 – Narvaez’s walk-off on July 4

Moment #1 – August 29
Dash punch postseason ticket at home

Playoff Social MediaThe Dash have enjoyed tremendous success since moving into BB&T Ballpark in 2010. Winston-Salem has won division titles, advanced to the Mills Cup Finals, produced Major League players and posted strong attendance numbers.

However, BB&T Ballpark had never been the site of a win that clinched a playoff berth–until this season.

After the fact, the second half looks like a 68-game celebration. The Dash stood in first place for all but one day after the All-Star break. Winston-Salem recorded a remarkable 17-3 mark in one-run games. The club’s 45-23 record was the best second-half record in this league since 1987.

Entering play on August 20, though, the Dash were in second place and led Carolina by just 2.5 games for the Southern Division’s final playoff spot. It was far from certain that Winston-Salem would even make it to the postseason, let alone deliver one of the best halves in recent Carolina League memory.

The late-season surge started with the club’s walk-off wild pitch against Myrtle Beach on August 20. Over the next three days, Winston swept Carolina to extend its playoff advantage over the Mudcats to 5.5 games.

Following a rain-shortened two-game split at Myrtle Beach, the Dash returned to BB&T Ballpark for the final home set of 2015. Winston-Salem’s playoff magic number stood at six with four games against the Keys before a week-long road trip.

A team will take a playoff clincher wherever it can get it. Heck, the 2010 Dash officially wrapped up a playoff spot while on the bus. Still, a clinch at home is the preferred method.

It was not a likely scenario when that final home series began. Even if Winston were to sweep the Keys, Lynchburg would need to hand Carolina at least two losses. At the earliest, a Saturday night clinch was possible, but that would only happen with three straight Dash wins and Mudcats losses.

On Thursday, the Dash nipped Frederick 5-4, while Lynchburg’s seven-run ninth sunk Carolina 8-2.

On Friday, the Dash cruised past the Keys 6-3, and Lynchburg posted a more conventional 8-2 win over the Muddies with runs in four different innings.

So, on Saturday, the Dash had an opportunity to clinch at BB&T Ballpark, and they did not waste it.

For a third straight night, the Hillcats helped out the Dash (while also improving their playoff positioning). Lynchburg blanked the Muddies 2-0 in Zebulon.

The Dash seized the lead right away thanks to an Adam Engel leadoff home run. From there, Brandon Brennan and Brian Clark combined on a three-hit shutout, while the Dash tacked on three more runs for a 4-0 victory.

It was a dominant effort from a red-hot team with many players who had never tasted the Minor League postseason.

“That was incredible,” Dash manager Tim Esmay said after the game. “That was one of the moments right there.”

“They never panicked. They never lost their way. We never pointed fingers. The guys stayed pretty connected, and that’s why they are where they’re at right now.

“It’s very special to me,” Engel said. “Every time you get to do something like this, what we got to do tonight, it’s never going to be the same twice. I love this team, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The Dash would take eventual champion Myrtle Beach to the brink in a thrilling Southern Division Championship Series before eventually falling by one in the deciding third game. Even though the team fell short of a record 12th Mills Cup, Winston-Salem watched a thrilling run that culminated in a playoff clinch at home.

Another Dash Top 10 is in the books. Stay tuned throughout the offseason for more news and notes.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #2: Narvaez, Dash walk off on July 4

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Dash win at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark
#5 – Winston reclaims first on wild pitch
#4 – Dash power past Pelicans in SDCS Game 1
#3 – Dykstra’s dominant no-hitter

Moment #2 – July 4
Narvaez, Dash walk off on Fourth of July

Omar Narvaez celebrates his walk-off hit on July 4 at BB&T Ballpark (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Omar Narvaez celebrates his walk-off hit on July 4 at BB&T Ballpark (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Few dates on the baseball calendar invigorate Dash fans more than the Fourth of July. Since the move into BB&T Ballpark in 2010, the top four single-game attendances have come on Independence Day.

Despite the overwhelming support, Winston-Salem had not enjoyed much success in past games on July 4. The Dash were 0-4 at BB&T Ballpark on the Fourth of July. This included a 5-0 Wilmington win in 2014 when the facility’s first crowd of more than 8,000 fans was on hand.

The 2015 Fourth of July extravaganza brought about the second such crowd, and the 8,009 fans were treated to a much better game. It was a back-and-forth affair that featured ties at 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5, the last of which took place in the bottom of the seventh.

In the ninth, Winston-Salem had a great opportunity to score–runners at the corners with one down. However, CL Reliever of the Year Cody Wheeler punched out Keon Barnum and Omar Narvaez to end the threat.

Two innings later, the Dash faced a two-out, bases-empty situation. Jake Peter sparked the offense with a single before Frederick’s Williams Louico issued consecutive walks to load the bases for Narvaez, who had dropped to 0-for-5 on the evening with his strikeout to end the ninth.

Once again, Narvaez fell behind in the count 1-2, and Keys catcher Austin Wynns wanted Louico to go low and try to induce a swinging strikeout. Louico’s offspeed pitch hovered, and Narvaez sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy with a walk-off single to right-center.

After the game, Narvaez called this base hit the best moment of his professional career. Considering he was named an All-Star for the first time less than a month prior, that is tremendously high praise.

Before the fireworks, sounds of an “Omar” chant permeated BB&T Ballpark. It was the Dash’s first walk-off victory in more than a calendar year, and it foreshadowed a thrilling second-half surge that culminated in a division title.

Stay tuned for our top moment from the 2015 season. We will present it for you Friday here on the blog.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #3: Dykstra’s dominant no-hitter

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Dash win at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark
#5 – Winston reclaims first on wild pitch
#4 – Dash power past Pelicans in SDCS Game 1

Moment #3 – April 15
Dykstra tosses Winston’s 15th no-hitter

James Dykstra works during his no-hitter on April 15 at Potomac (Photo via Tracy E. Mackereth)

James Dykstra works during his no-hitter on April 15 at Potomac (Photo via Tracy E. Mackereth)

The phrase “dominant no-hitter” is redundant, no?

Not when you break down James Dykstra’s outing during the season’s first week.

On a Wednesday morning in Woodbridge, Va., Dykstra took to the hill for game one of a doubleheader against Potomac. Six days prior, he permitted just one hit over six shutout innings on Opening Night at Frederick.

It was a tough act to follow, but Dykstra did just that, and then some, in a seven-inning no-hitter at Pfitzner Stadium.

The California native needed just 71 pitches to blaze through a Potomac lineup that did not hit the ball into the outfield all game.

14 groundouts, three strikeouts, two popouts, a lineout and a pickoff.

Oh, and that pickoff came after a leadoff walk in the fourth but before he threw another pitch. So, Dykstra never made a pitch out of the stretch.

That is as dominant as it gets for a no-hitter, Dykstra’s first and Winston-Salem’s 15th all-time.

“Just to be in the record books is something special,” Dykstra said after the game. “It was pretty much all [catcher Omar Narvaez] and the defense.”

Dykstra’s gem was the first Winston-Salem no-no since Levi Maxwell accomplished the feat on June 19, 2009, at Wilmington, which was also a twin bill opener. It is a MiLBY nominee and was a key reason Dykstra earned an All-Star nod.

The offense made sure that the game only lasted seven innings, as Keon Barnum delivered an RBI double in the sixth for the contest’s only run.

No-hitters do not come around often, and few have been as dominant as Dykstra’s. There is no doubt that this was the marquee performance of Winston-Salem’s first half.

So, the final two moments on our Dash Top 10 took place after the All-Star break. Stay tuned for the second-best moment, which will be unveiled Thursday.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #4: Winston downs Myrtle in Game 1

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Dash win at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark
#5 – Winston reclaims first on wild pitch

Moment #4 – September 9
Dash power past Pelicans in SDCS Game 1

Recap_MW_9_9_1_q4chclgu_67i0cf8tThe #PlayoffDash did not end the way that Dash fans wanted, but its start was phenomenal. BB&T Ballpark hosted its first playoff game in exactly three years, and it was the only Dash home game in a best-of-three Southern Division Championship Series that lived up to the hype.

The Dash and Myrtle Beach Pelicans posted the top two records in the Carolina League. The two clubs split their 26-game season series. Both teams boasted many relevant prospects in the White Sox and Cubs’ organizations.

In a tremendously even series, one big inning could swing a game or the series as a whole. The first big inning came in the first frame of Game 1.

Winston starter Carson Fulmer worked through a scoreless first, and it appeared that Duane Underwood, Jr., would do the same for Myrtle Beach. However, Jake Peter singled with two down, and Trey Michalczewski followed with a sky-scraping home run down the right field line.

One pitch later, Keon Barnum laced an opposite-field homer to left. In the span of 50 seconds, Winston-Salem scored three runs on its first back-to-back effort since July of 2013.

These homers were as quick as they were impactful. The Dash never looked back in a 4-2 victory, during which Fulmer, Brian Clark and Brad Goldberg shined on the mound.

Unfortunately for the Dash, Myrtle Beach rebounded to win the series with consecutive one-run wins in South Carolina. The series was as close as one can be–both teams scored 10 total runs in the series, and the Dash had the tying run at third in the ninth inning in both Game 2 and Game 3.

Even though there was only one home game, Winston-Salem embraced a return to the postseason and a thrilling victory in Game 1 that had fans hoping for more. The Mills Cup Finals never became a reality for the Dash, but it was still a tremendous run.

The bronze medalist in the Dash Top 10 will be announced on Wednesday, and it is a moment that is up for national attention. Talk to you then.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #5: Dash reclaim first place on wild pitch

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Dash win at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark

Moment #5 – August 20
Dash grab first place with walk-off wild pitch

Keon Barnum scored on a wild pitch to stun Myrtle Beach in one of the Dash's biggest wins of 2015 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Keon Barnum scored on a wild pitch to stun Myrtle Beach in one of the Dash’s biggest wins of 2015 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

In the second half, Winston-Salem entered every day with at least a share of first place except for one–August 20.

It was an improbable turnaround for the Dash, who resided in the Southern Division’s basement for the final 50 days of the first half. In half two, Winston-Salem started with five consecutive wins and never looked back, except for that day in mid-August.

One day prior, Winston-Salem squared off with Myrtle Beach in a doubleheader, with the Pelicans just a game-and-a-half back of the Dash in the standings.

Despite a strong start from Yency Almonte, Myrtle Beach took down the Dash 4-1 in the opener, during which Winston mustered only three hits. The nightcap was even more frustrating, as the Dash spoiled a bases loaded, one-out opportunity in the eighth before giving up a pair in the ninth on two bases loaded walks.

Thus, a one-and-a-half game lead became a half-game deficit. Winston’s 55-day run atop the Southern Division, the club’s longest during the Dash era, came to an end after this lengthy doubleheader.

The series finale on August 20 did not begin very promisingly for Winston-Salem. Myrtle Beach posted a three-run first inning and led 4-2 through seven. However, Nolan Earley pulled the Dash within one on a double and scored on an Eddy Alvarez single to knot the score at 4-4 in the eighth.

Earley stepped up once again in the ninth, this time with the bases loaded and two down. In this case, though, Earley did not have to be the hero. Myrtle Beach reliever Michael Heesch uncorked a wild pitch, and slugger Keon Barnum, not known for his speed, “ran as fast as I could” to the plate to score the game-winning run.

For two games and seven innings of that series, Myrtle Beach outplayed Winston-Salem, but the Dash rallied for one of their many single-run victories during the second half. In fact, Winston was 17-3 after the All-Star break in games decided by one run.

That walk-off win marked the second and final “lead change” in the division standings. Winston-Salem only spent one day in the second half outside first place, and the club immediately responded with this victory, one of 14 in the Dash’s final 17 games.

Even though the Dash did not finish the deal in the postseason, there was no doubt about the top team in the Carolina League during the season’s second half. Winston’s 45-23 record was the circuit’s best half two mark since 1987.

The Dash’s late-season surge started thanks to that come-from-behind win less than 24 hours after the toughest day of the second half.

Speaking of the Dash and the Pelicans, our fourth-best Dash moment of 2015 also involved a battle between these two clubs. We’ll talk to you on Tuesday.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #6: BB&T Ballpark renamed for a day

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year

Moment #6 – August 27
Dash play at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark

Debbie D. Harllee enjoyed an incredible experience...at a ballpark named after her for a day! (Will Marrs/W-S Dash)

Debbie D. Harllee enjoyed an incredible evening at a ballpark named after her for a day. Plus, the Dash won! (Will Marrs/W-S Dash)

“Welcome to my ballpark!”

This was the refrain on a joyous evening at a Dash game for Debbie D. Harllee, who was the winner of this year’s BB&T Ballpark Ultimate Fantasy Fan Experience Sweepstakes.

On that Thursday night in Winston-Salem, it truly did feel like Debbie’s ballpark. She received her own Dash jersey, delivered the team’s lineup to the umpires and enjoyed the game from a dugout suite, all from a facility named after her for a day.

However, Debbie already had that feeling of ownership at BB&T Ballpark, well before the Dash defeated Frederick on the night it transformed into Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark.

Baseball has always carved out a special place in Debbie’s life. In particular, her hometown team, whether it was the Dash, or the Warthogs, or the Spirits.

Debbie and her late husband Victor had attended Winston-Salem baseball games since the mid-1980s. In fact, the couple had selected their season ticket location for BB&T Ballpark from a blueprint of the facility two years before it opened.

Unfortunately, Victor passed away before BB&T Ballpark’s first game in April of 2010. Debbie still purchased the tickets–in Section 205–because she knew Victor would have wanted it that way.

Fast forward to this August, when Debbie was going through the whirlwind and the thrill of being the Dash’s Fantasy Fan. She threw out the ceremonial first pitch, joined the radio broadcast and even signed some of the PlayBall programs that featured her picture.

Even on this hectic night, Debbie made sure to swing by her seats in Section 205, which are featured in this story by Fox 8.

For a short period of time, all of BB&T Ballpark belonged to Debbie. But, every night, a small part of BB&T Ballpark belongs to her, and to Victor.

We will take a break over the weekend. Stay tuned for the fifth-best moment of 2015, which was one of the biggest wins of the Dash’s second-half surge.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #7: Heidenreich wins Pitcher of the Year

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks

Moment #7 – August 29
Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year

Matt Heidenreich became the first Winston-Salem hurler to win the league's Pitcher of the Year honor since Dave Pavlas in 1986. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Matt Heidenreich became the first Winston-Salem hurler to win the league’s Pitcher of the Year honor since Dave Pavlas in 1986. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

The Winston-Salem franchise is dripping with history. The lone charter member remaining in the Carolina League, Winston-Salem has won 11 Mills Cups, while almost 400 alumni have reached the Major Leagues.

However, the club had not produced a Pitcher of the Year since 1986. Winston-Salem only boasted a pair of pitching honorees in franchise history.

That is, until Matt Heidenreich returned to the Triad in 2015.

Before this season began, Heidenreich had embarked on a unique Minor League journey. The White Sox fourth-round pick in 2009, Heidenreich climbed to the Dash by the start of the 2012 season.

That season was a wild one for the California native, who was so strong in the first half that he started for the Carolina League in the All-Star Game here in the Triad. Few Minor Leaguers have had as cool of a moment as that–starting an All-Star Game in your own home ballpark.

A few weeks after his All-Star nod, Heidenreich moved to Double-A Birmingham, but his stint was a short one. Three starts into Heidenreich’s stint in Birmingham, the White Sox sent him, along with left-hander Blair Walters, to Houston for the services of big league righty Brett Myers.

Heidenreich did not experience much success with the Astros’ organization. At the end of the 2014 season, the Astros released him, and the White Sox called soon thereafter.

It was an easy decision for Heidenreich, who regularly referred to the White Sox organization as “home.” His return home was a special one.

Heidenreich paced the CL with 12 victories. He also placed in the top five on the circuit in earned run average (2.76, 2nd) and WHIP (1.16, 4th). The Dash were 16-5 in games that Heidenreich started.

Even beyond his statistics, Heidenreich’s leadership and competitiveness aided the entire staff. He was an innings eater, even if he did not possess his best stuff. Though he earned a well-deserved promotion to Double-A in mid-August, Heidenreich became a Dash fan down the stretch. He kept in touch with players and followed each of Winston’s postseason games.

After a few years of unique twists and turns, everything seemed to click in 2015 for Heidenreich, who helped the Winston-Salem franchise do something that was long overdue.

The sixth-best moment of 2015 is on the horizon for Friday, and it involves a non-Dash player. Stay tuned.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #8: Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem

Moment #8 – June 5-July 5
Peter records a pair of 14-game hit streaks

Jake Peter was a hitting machine for Winston-Salem, especially in the middle of the season (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Jake Peter was a hitting machine for Winston-Salem, especially in the middle of the season (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

This is not exactly a moment, but Jake Peter accomplished something special during the middle of the season. For a month, Peter was “Mr. Automatic” offensively.

During this 29-game stretch, Peter hit .351 with 16 RBIs and 19 runs scored in 29 games. He hit safely in the first 14 games. Following a single-game hitless drought, the former Creighton star rattled off 14 more games with at least one knock.

If anything, the one “moment” from this run came during the hitless game. On June 18 against Salem, Peter went 0-for-3 in five at bats, though he drove in both of the Dash’s runs that evening! Even when he did not muster a hit, the infielder was a valuable member of the lineup.

Sure enough, Peter said this after the game: “I would have liked to get a few more games, but the bright side of it is I can start a new streak tomorrow.” He did just that.

Sometimes, one cannot truly appreciate a streak until some context is added. Sure, a 14-game hit streak is not the longest you will ever see. It was, however, the best a Dash hitter had recorded since Marcus Semien, now in the Majors with Oakland, strung together an 18-game run in May of 2012.

Consider, too, that Winston-Salem had not yet turned into the powerhouse that it would become as the second half progressed. During these 29 games, the Dash amassed only 105 runs, or 3.6 per game. Peter was responsible for about a third of them.

By the end of the season, Peter was near the top of many offensive categories within the Carolina League, and he was named a Year-End All-Star. His remarkable month-long surge was a big reason why.

Speaking of awards, be sure to stay tuned for our seventh-best memory of 2015.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #9: Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem

Moment #9 – July 23
First-rounder Fulmer makes High-A debut

Carson Fulmer made his debut for the Dash on July 23 against Carolina (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Carson Fulmer made his debut for the Dash on July 23 against Carolina (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

In 2010, it was Chris Sale. Last season, it was Carlos Rodon. Once again this year, the White Sox selected a college pitcher in the first round of the MLB Draft, and he surged to Winston-Salem quickly.

Carson Fulmer, who lifted Vanderbilt baseball to unforeseen heights, was the eighth pick in this year’s Draft. Only 45 days after this selection, Fulmer, with just one inning of Minor League experience, took to the hill for his High-A debut.

Unfortunately for Dash fans, Fulmer did not have the opportunity to pitch deep into games. The White Sox were very careful with his workload after “Filthy Fulmer,” as he was known to many Vanderbilt fans, logged almost 130 innings in the spring with the Commodores.

A short start from Fulmer is still pretty darn fun, though.

His Dash debut was a two-inning start against the Carolina Mudcats at BB&T Ballpark, and Dash fans saw flashes of his brilliance. He mowed through a quick first inning before stranding a pair of runners in the second.

33 pitches. Three strikeouts. The first of eight starts in Winston-Salem.

The Dash would edge Carolina 3-2 on the first #FulmerDay. In fact, Winston was undefeated in Fulmer’s eight starts, with Brian Clark providing some valuable piggyback work in many of those instances.

Fans in Winston-Salem did not get to know the personable, competitive Fulmer as well as those in Nashville, who watched him propel Vandy to its first National Championship in baseball in 2014 and a return trip to the Finals one year later. However, his stay in the Carolina League was longer than both Sale and Rodon’s.

Should Fulmer become the type of pitcher Sale is and Rodon looks like he will be, those who watched Fulmer in the Dash purple will remember these outings, even if they were fairly short.

The countdown continues Wednesday with a look at a man who earned the nickname Mr. Automatic after a remarkable month-long stretch.

– Brian

Dash Top 10 – #10: Four-homer outburst sinks Salem

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10, which we will unveil over the next two weeks.

Moment #10 – May 17
Winston pummels Salem behind four home runs

Ethan Wilson clubbed his first Minor League home run during the Dash's 12-1 win over Salem on May 17 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Ethan Wilson clubbed his first Minor League home run during the Dash’s 12-1 win over Salem on May 17 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

This countdown will mostly feature second-half memories, which is what happens when a team bounces back from a 30-40 first half to a 45-23 second half. However, one of the marquee moments before the All-Star break was a Sunday smashing of Salem in mid-May.

The Dash were a Southern Division-worst 15-22 entering their clash with the Red Sox on May 17. Traditionally a power-hitting club, Winston-Salem had only hit 12 home runs in its first 37 contests, and the Dash had dropped four of their first five against Salem.

In this finale with the Sox, the Dash looked like the postseason team that they would eventually become. Winston-Salem plated three in each of the first two innings before turning it into a blowout with a five-run fourth.

Not surprisingly, this was more than enough support for Matt Heidenreich, who became the fourth pitcher in Minor League Baseball to reach six personal victories.

In particular, what made this game special was the Dash’s power surge. Winston swatted four home runs, which proved to be its high-water mark for a game this season. Adam Engel, Chris Jacobs and Trey Michalczewski, all of whom were key cogs to the Dash’s attack this season, went deep in the blowout win.

The other home run belonged to a man who had waited quite a long time for his first professional long ball. Ethan Wilson, who had missed four seasons with a kidney disorder that required a transplant, hit his first and, to this point, only Minor League home run in the fourth.

Wilson’s story is an incredible one, and it is worth telling, and retelling, and retelling. The 2010 White Sox draftee worked all the way back to the Minors, and this was a moment that he and his family will not soon forget.

The first half was filled with teases of the Dash’s surge in half two. This was as emphatic as any, with a great moment for a resilient player adding to the fun afternoon.

Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for our ninth-best moment, which we will unveil on Tuesday. Here’s a hint: it involves a certain pitcher’s Dash debut.

– Brian

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