With four days remaining in the second half, the Carolina League playoffs are set. The Dash will take on the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Southern Division Championship Series, while Lynchburg and Wilmington will tangle in the Northern Division Championship Series. Here is the game-by-game breakdown:
SOUTHERN DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES:
Myrtle Beach v. Winston-Salem (Dash won season series 11-9)
Game 1 – Myrtle Beach at Winston-Salem – 7:00 p.m.
Game 2 – Myrtle Beach at Winston-Salem – 7:00 p.m.
Game 3* – Myrtle Beach at Winston-Salem – 7:00 p.m.
NORTHERN DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES:
Wilmington v. Lynchburg (Blue Rocks won season series 11-9)
Game 1 – Lynchburg at Wilmington – 6:35 p.m.
Game 2 – Wilmington at Lynchburg – 6:05 p.m.
Game 3* – Wilmington at Lynchburg – 6:05 p.m.
* = if necessary
For what it is worth, here are the season series results of the four possible Mills Cup Championship matchups:
- Winston-Salem won season series over Wilmington 15-5
- Lynchburg leads Winston-Salem 10-9 (one game remaining)
- Myrtle Beach won season series over Wilmington 11-9
- Lynchburg leads Myrtle Beach 10-7 (three games remaining)
If the Dash were to make it to the Mills Cup Championship Series, they would host Game 1 and Game 2 next Saturday and Sunday before heading to the N.D.C.S. champion’s home September 11-13.
The Dash have been one of the most active teams in minor league baseball in terms of transactions, and the last two days have been no different. Here is a quick look at the moves from the last two days:
- Infielder Chris Curley promoted to Winston-Salem from Low-A Kannapolis
- Right-handed reliever James Hudelson promoted to Winston-Salem from rookie-level Bristol
- Infielder Kyle Shelton promoted to Double-A Birmingham from Winston-Salem
- Infielder Drew Thompson activated off disabled list and released from the White Sox organization
Curley hit .271 with 11 homers and 29 RBI in 49 games with the Intimidators after signing with the White Sox earlier this year. Hudelson went 1-3 with a 5.86 ERA in 21 games with Bristol. Shelton hit .313 with two homers and six RBI in nine games with the Dash. Thompson spent the entire season on the disabled list.
The Dash sit at the CL-maximum 25 players. Winston-Salem and Lynchburg meet in a series finale from BB&T Ballpark tonight at 7:00. Join us at 6:45 here.
Last night’s division-clinching victory was much different than the Dash’s first-half triumph.
In June, the Dash jumped out to a big lead before holding on for the win. Last night, Lynchburg’s three-run lead was an early obstacle.
In June, Winston was playing some of its best baseball of the season when it clinched at Wilmington. Last night, the Dash were aiming to avoid their longest losing streak of the season, which still sits at a meager three games.
In June, the Dash needed to best a struggling Wilmington squad on the road in order to knock down a division crown. Last night, the Blue Rocks completed a sweep of second-place Myrtle Beach to help the Dash to another division title.
In June, Erik Johnson and Keenyn Walker were in Kannapolis with a middle-of-the-road South Atlantic League squad. Last night, Johnson earned the win and Walker made a spectacular game-winning catch.
In June, Taylor Thompson was on the disabled list after a tough first half. Last night, he was wrapping up his 12th save and adding to his remarkable second-half resume.
In June, the Dash stormed into the clubhouse for a special celebration. Last night, more than 4,000 fans at BB&T Ballpark applauded as their hometown team simply slapped hands in the middle of the diamond.
In June, the jury was still out about the Mills Cup favorite. Last night, the Dash officially assumed that large target following their 84th victory.
However, all of these differences still resulted in one undeniable similarity between June 16 and August 30.
Winston-Salem had once against clinched the best record in the Carolina League during the current half.
Winston is two-thirds of the way to a clean CL sweep in 2012. However, this next two-week journey is the defining period of the season. A championship is on the line, and the Dash will fight with Myrtle Beach, Lynchburg and Wilmington for the league’s greatest prize.
That’s why last night was so different after the game. There was no need to celebrate, because the important part of the season begins in five days.
And it will kick off at BB&T Ballpark, the home of the Carolina League’s overwhelming favorite.
Winston-Salem has had the top record in the Carolina League locked up for almost a week, so it should be no surprise that the Dash dominated the year-end awards, as you can see on wsdash.com.
The Dash also took home two of the top three honors on the circuit. First baseman Dan Black earned the Carolina League Most Valuable Player award, while skipper Tommy Thompson is the Manager of the Year.
Now, the duo joins these prestigious lists:
MVP winners in Winston-Salem history:
1951 – Ray Jablonski
1960 – Ed Olivares
1966 – Robbie Snow
1990 – Gary Scott
1991 – Pete Castellano
1993 – Bubba Smith
1998 – Joe Crede
2005 – Leo Daigle
2011 – Ian Gac
2012 – Dan Black
Manager of the Year winners in Winston-Salem history:
1960 – George Kissell
1964 – Bill Slack
1976 – Tony Torchia
1979 – Bill Slack
1986 – Jim Essian
1998 – Chris Cron
2009 – Joe McEwing
2010 – Joe McEwing
2012 – Tommy Thompson
Here are a few trends based on those lists: Winston has had the Manager of the Year in three of its four years as the Dash, and the franchise has won the MVP honor seven times since 1990.
Congrats to Dan and Tommy for their well-deserved awards.
The Arizona Fall League rosters have been released for this autumn’s action, and the Dash are represented well. Current Winston-Salem closer Taylor Thompson, along with five former Dash stars and current White Sox farmhands, will suit up for the Salt River Rafters.
Thompson will join outfielder Trayce Thompson, hurlers Andre Rienzo and Santos Rodriguez and infielders Carlos Sanchez and Andy Wilkins in the AFL. Winston-Salem trainer Cory Barton will also head to Arizona in the same role with the Rafters.
All six White Sox representatives have played in Winston-Salem during their minor league careers. They will join highly-touted prospects from Arizona, Colorado, Toronto and Washington’s farm systems.
Taylor Thompson is 2-1 with a 2.59 earned run average in 30 relief appearances this season. After battling some injuries in the first half, the Montgomery, Ala., native has responded with a second-half ERA of 0.60 in 30 innings of work.
Three other soon-to-be AFL players donned the Dash purple in 2012. Rienzo made four starts and posted a 1.08 ERA in 25 innings before earning a promotion to Double-A Birmingham, where he is 4-3 with a 3.27 ERA. Sanchez is now with Triple-A Charlotte after hitting .315 with 42 RBI and 58 runs scored with Winston during the season’s first three months. Trayce Thompson is also in Triple-A Charlotte following a promotion today. He still leads the Carolina League with 90 RBI and is tied atop the circuit with 22 homers.
Rodriguez was with Winston-Salem throughout the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. In the CL, Rodriguez amassed a 4-3 record and a 3.69 ERA in 72 appearances largely out of the bullpen. He is now with Triple-A Charlotte after boasting a 2.81 ERA in Double-A Birmingham this season.
Finally, Wilkins is with Birmingham, where he is hitting .236 with 17 homers and 66 RBI. The former Arkansas slugger hit .278 with 23 long balls and 89 RBI for the Dash last season.
This season marks the 20th in AFL history. The season runs from October 9 until the annual championship game November 17.
Some roster moves are bigger than others. Today, the White Sox announced a handful of moves with significant ramifications.
We begin with the Dash’s new highly-touted outfielder. Courtney Hawkins has earned his first career promotion to High-A two-and-a-half months after the White Sox chose him with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft. In a corresponding move, Mark Haddow heads to Double-A Birmingham for the first time after playing four games with Winston.
Hawkins debuted with rookie-level Bristol and hit .272 with three homers and 16 RBI in 38 games in the Appalachian League. The Corpus Christi, Texas, native then jumped to Low-A Kannapolis, where he hit .308 with four homers and 15 RBI in just 16 contests. In his fifth game as an Intimidator, Hawkins came up with a walk-off single, and he followed suit with another game-winning hit one day later.
Another White Sox transaction does not affect Winston-Salem, but it is a great day for a former Dash slugger. Trayce Thompson has reached Triple-A Charlotte for the first time in his minor league career. Thompson played in 14 games with Double-A Birmingham and hit .280 with three homers and six RBI. The former second-round pick is tied for the Carolina League lead with 22 homers and sits atop the circuit with 90 RBI.
We will have more on Hawkins, Thompson and the rest of the Dash as we continue along. Winston’s magic number is three with six games to go. The Dash continue their four-game set with Lynchburg tonight at 7:00.
PLEASE NOTE: These selections do NOT represent the award winners in the Carolina League. This is merely my opinion on the end-of-season awards.
The Carolina League’s end-of-season All-Star Team should be announced sometime this week, and it is a vote involving media members, general managers and skippers. Here are my best guesses, along with a few others who deserve mention (in alphabetical order).
CATCHER: Braeden Schlehuber (Lynchburg)
The All-Star reserve earns this spot, but it was one of the toughest ones to pick. Winston-Salem’s Mike Blanke made a late surge and certainly could get this spot.
Close calls: Mike Blanke (Winston-Salem), David Freitas (Potomac), Evan Gattis (Lynchburg)
FIRST BASE: Dan Black (Winston-Salem)
He won’t win the triple crown in the CL, but he will come closer than anyone else. The Big Black Bear has been one of the circuit’s most consistent hitters all season long.
Close calls: Chris Garcia (Lynchburg), Travis Shaw (Salem)
SECOND BASE: Carlos Sanchez (Winston-Salem)
It was embarrassing that Sanchez did not make the All-Star team, but this should be a nice consolation. That, and being in Triple-A Charlotte now.
Close call: Tommy La Stella (Lynchburg)
SHORTSTOP: Xander Bogaerts (Salem)
Boston’s second-best prospect is now a Portland SeaDog, but he was a force offensively in the Carolina League.
Close calls: Nick Ahmed (Lynchburg), Marcus Semien (Winston-Salem)
THIRD BASE: Michael Almanzar (Salem)
Almanzar needed a second season in High-A ball, but he improved greatly from year one.
Close calls: Giovanni Urshela (Carolina), Christian Villanueva (Myrtle Beach)
OUTFIELDERS: Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Salem), Brady Shoemaker (Winston-Salem) and Trayce Thompson (Winston-Salem)
Bradley, Jr., and Shoemaker were the CL’s two best players in the first half, and Thompson boasted the most gaudy numbers on the circuit.
Close calls: Michael Earley (Winston-Salem), Jeremy Nowak (Frederick)
UTILITY INFIELDER: Travis Shaw (Salem)
It was tough to pick among many great players for this final spot, but Shaw was a key cog in Salem’s huge first half.
Close calls: Jesus Aguilar (Carolina), Ronny Rodriguez (Carolina), Semien
UTILITY OUTFIELDER: Michael Earley (Winston-Salem)
Earley had a career year, and he definitely belongs somewhere on this list. He fits in well here.
Close calls: Kevin Keyes (Potomac), Nowak
DESIGNATED HITTER: Aaron Baker (Frederick)
With all of the great first basemen in the CL, Baker had to fight to get on this roster despite his big power numbers.
Close call: Jeremie Tice (Carolina)
STARTING PITCHER: Cody Buckel (Myrtle Beach)
Buckel’s 1.31 ERA in 13 starts was ridiculous, and he still places 14th in the CL in strikeouts despite playing in Double-A Frisco for much of the second half.
Close calls: Matt Barnes (Salem), Dylan Bundy (Frederick), J.R. Graham (Lynchburg), Gus Schlosser (Lynchburg)
RELIEF PITCHER: Ben Rowen (Myrtle Beach)
This was one of the tougher selections, but Rowen has been electric as a submarine specialist.
Close calls: Juan Jaime (Lynchburg), Mike Olmsted (Salem), Taylor Thompson (Winston-Salem)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Brady Shoemaker (Winston-Salem)
Shoemaker carried the Dash past a loaded Salem squad in the first half. If he had been in the CL throughout the season, the Indiana State product could have posted some ridiculous numbers.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Cody Buckel (Myrtle Beach)
The numbers were just too good.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Tommy Thompson (Winston-Salem)
This isn’t even a conversation. If he isn’t the unanimous choice, voters don’t know what they are doing. Thompson has taken the Dash to the brink of minor league baseball’s best record despite significant turnover.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know.
But you have to like the fact that Winston-Salem paces the All-Star team with five representatives, plus the MVP and Manager of the Year.
The Dash’s bullpen has been the most dynamic part of the roster this season. Relievers have come and gone more than any aspect of the roster. Today, two more relievers earned promotions, with Ryan Buch heading to Double-A Birmingham and Bryan Blough returning to the Triad from Low-A Kannapolis.
Buch is heading to the Southern League for the first time in his career. In 22 appearances this season, Buch is 4-5 with a 6.21 earned run average. He joined the bullpen at the tail end of the first half and struggled for a few outings in that role. However, the former eighth-round pick has allowed only three runs on eight hits in his last seven appearances spanning eight frames.
After his second stint in the South Atlantic League, Blough returns to Winston-Salem, where he went 2-0 with a 4.40 ERA in seven appearances. With the Intimidators, Blough was 2-6 with an ERA of 4.23 in 32 appearances, six of which were starts.
The Dash are back at BB&T Ballpark for the first of four against the Lynchburg Hillcats tonight at 7:00. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:45 here.
The Dash are off tonight, but the roster did change a bit in advance of the season’s final week. Outfielder Ross Wilson was placed on the disabled list with a right hand injury, while Kyle Shelton is back from a DL stint due to a left hamstring strain.
Wilson had played four games since rejoining the Dash following a four-week trip to the disabled list due to an abdominal injury. Overall with Winston-Salem, Wilson is hitting .190 with six RBI and 11 runs scored in 25 games.
Shelton is back in Winston-Salem after posting a .364 mark in six games with Winston earlier this season. He has been on the disabled list since mid-July. Shelton has also played in eight games with Triple-A Charlotte, going 4-for-20 (.200) with a homer and two RBI.
Also, Winston-Salem may be off today, but the club could still lower its magic number to four. Second-place Myrtle Beach opens up a four-game series in Wilmington tonight at 7:05. The Dash own a three-game lead with seven to play in the chase for a second-half Southern Division title.
Enjoy the night off. I’ll talk to you Tuesday.
Earlier this weekend, many Dash players participated in BaseBald, which is a program designed to fund critical childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
If you missed out on the special postgame ceremony, we have you covered. Check out some of the photos here (courtesy of Dan Barber, Jody Stewart and Brandon Cathey):
From left to right, Juan Silverio, Kevin Vance, Chris Bassitt, Michael Earley and Taylor Thompson.
A great look for Chris Bassitt, created by fellow Dash righty Terance Marin.
Justin Collop won the game Friday, and then cancer survivor Grant Ivey, who threw out the first pitch, shaved Collop’s head.
Dash players and fans watch the BaseBald ceremony.
Many of the participating Dash players pose with Grant following the event.
Thanks to BaseBald and to those who participated or supported the cause. What a special night at BB&T Ballpark.