September 2012

Dash Top 10: #1 – BB&T Ballpark Hosts All-Star Game

The scene moments before the 2012 All-Star Game inside BB&T Ballpark (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

This is the 10th and final installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak
#7: 5-run 9th sinks Salem
#6: Postseason awards
#5: First-half clinch
#4: MCCS Game 2 win
#3: SDCS-clinching victory
#2: Dash earn MiLB’s top mark

Moment #1 (June 19): The Dash and BB&T Ballpark host the 2012 California-Carolina League All-Star Game.
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“This has been a fabulous experience for me and a great experience for minor league baseball,” said Minor League President Pat O’Conner.

“It’s hard to imagine the event doing any better, and I knew that would be the case,” Carolina League President John Hopkins said. “I just knew it was going to come together beautifully, and it did.”

For the first time in BB&T Ballpark history, the Midsummer Classic came to Winston-Salem, and it was a tremendous success.

A simple nine-inning game transformed into a three-day spectacle during which the Dash hosted eight events. The All-Star Game and surrounding festivities wowed owners, executives, players and coaches from both the Carolina League and the California League.

The Dash put together a FanFest on Fourth the night before the game, which included live music, autograph sessions and much more. The day of the game, every All-Star and many members of the Winston-Salem community enjoyed an All-Star Luncheon headlined by Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.

Gates opened at 3:30 p.m., and fans enjoyed batting practice by both teams, a home run derby with a hometown winner and plenty of pregame ceremonies.

Once the game began at 7:29 p.m., almost 7,000 fans settled in for the Carolina League’s first win since 2008. The California League scored in the opening frame thanks to Billy Hamilton’s ridiculous speed, but the home squad, with three Dash players on the roster, followed with the game’s final nine runs en route to a 9-1 blowout victory.

After the game, fans experienced a postgame fireworks show, followed by a party at Ziggy’s. In all, Winston-Salem and the Dash were well-represented due to an All-Star Game that brought plenty of business and coverage to the area and franchise.

The best way to recap this wonderful event is through you, the fans. We compiled these tweets and photos from the fans in Winston-Salem less than 24 hours after the Midsummer Classic’s first pitch. The Dash could not be more thankful for the loyal support the area and its citizens showed before, during and after the All-Star Game.

Winston-Salem most certainly shined in mid-June, and the minor league world was here to watch it.

Thanks for following along with the Dash’s Top 10. We’ll be back on the blog Monday for much more coverage. Talk to you then.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #2 – Winston Clinches MiLB’s Top Mark

Raise your hand if you played for minor league baseball’s best team in 2012!

This is the ninth installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the top moment tomorrow.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak
#7: 5-run 9th sinks Salem
#6: Postseason awards
#5: First-half clinch
#4: MCCS Game 2 win
#3: SDCS-clinching victory

Moment #2 (September 2): The Dash clinch full-season minor league baseball’s best record on the regular season’s penultimate day.
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When Winston-Salem kicked off a four-game series with Carolina July 23, the club was a league-best 59-40-1. The Dash had already clinched a playoff spot thanks to a first-half championship. In other words, the season was already highly successful.

The Dash then elevated their 2012 efforts to another level. From July 23 to August 17, Winston-Salem posted a mark of 20-4 to rocket toward the top of full-season minor league baseball’s standings.

A three-game losing streak in late August allowed Low-A Asheville to seize the top spot with five games remaining. The Dash responded with three straight victories to lower their magic number to one with two games to go in the regular season.

On a Sunday afternoon at LewisGale Field, Winston-Salem squared off with first-half rival Salem with a chance to finish atop the standings. The Dash cruised to victory.

Winston plated a pair of runs in the first frame and never trailed. Both Cyle Hankerd and Kevan Smith drove home two runs. Starter Chris Bassitt twirled five shutout innings en route to the victory.

It was an emphatic win to earn a distinguished honor. Sure, the Dash were not in Double-A or Triple-A, but no team was better than Winston-Salem in record. No team was better at beating opponents on an equal playing ground than Winston-Salem.

The Dash became the first American League affiliate to post the best record in full-season minor league baseball since 2005. Winston-Salem recorded its second-best record since joining the CL as a charter member in 1945.

Obviously, it did not lead to a Mills Cup that everyone in the Triad wanted; however, only three of the last eight teams to finish with the best regular season record have taken home a championship.

For five months, the Dash were the best team in the minors. Even though Lynchburg claimed the Cup, Winston-Salem was the main story of the 2012 campaign, and a Sunday afternoon in front of a small crowd in the Roanoke Valley guaranteed it.

We will have reached the end of our Top 10 countdown tomorrow when we unveil the top moment of Winston-Salem’s 2012 season. You won’t want to miss it.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #3 – Blowout Win Clinches SDCS

(Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash)

This is the eighth installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next few days.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak
#7: 5-run 9th sinks Salem
#6: Postseason awards
#5: First-half clinch
#4: MCCS Game 2 win

Moment #3 (September 7): Winston-Salem blasts Myrtle Beach in a winner-take-all Game 3 of the SDCS.
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The first 15 innings of the Southern Division Championship Series were frustrating. The Dash’s offense did not muster much against Myrtle Beach’s solid pitching staff. A four-run sixth propelled the Pelicans to a Game 1 victory, and Myrtle enjoyed a 3-2 lead heading to the home half of Game 2’s seventh inning.

The Pelicans did not score again in 2012.

Courtney Hawkins’ leadoff homer in the seventh knotted the score, and Marcus Semien’s two-run double later in the frame proved to be the difference in a 5-3 victory that kept Winston’s season alive.

This comeback set the tone for arguably the Dash’s most complete game of 2012. In the deciding Game 3 of the Southern Division Championship Series, Winston-Salem came up with two big hits that grounded the Birds.

With the bases loaded and a run already in during the second inning, Keenyn Walker laced a three-run triple to right-center to lift Winston-Salem to a 4-0 advantage.

One inning later, playoff star Kevan Smith deflated the Pelicans with a grand slam that made the final six innings on that Friday night just a formality.

While the Dash’s lineup was quiet the rest of the evening, Chris Bassitt, Steven Upchurch and J.R. Ballinger combined for a five-hit shutout that felt even more lopsided than the 9-0 final score.

You can relive all of the highlights, postgame interviews and analysis from Game 3 here. It was an incredibly fun night to cap off a tremendous series, and the Dash proved to be the Southern Division’s best team in 2012.

Stay tuned for the second-best moment of 2012, which will be on the blog tomorrow. The Dash made history with this moment on a Sunday in Salem. Talk to you then.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #4 – Smith Blasts Dash to Game 2 Win

The look on Daniel Wagner’s face says it all (Dan Barber/W-S Dash).

This is the seventh installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next few days.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak
#7: 5-run 9th sinks Salem
#6: Postseason awards
#5: First-half clinch

Moment #4 (September 9): The Dash rally for a 5-4 win over Lynchburg in Game 2 of the Mills Cup Championship Series.
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Winston-Salem posted the best home record in full-season minor league baseball during the regular season, and the Dash entered their final home game of the playoffs in need of one more BB&T Ballpark victory.

It was Game 2 of the Mills Cup Championship Series, and Lynchburg claimed the opener of the best-of-five series 3-1. A loss on that Sunday afternoon at BB&T Ballpark would not have eliminated the Dash, but winning three straight road games in the playoffs is a tough assignment.

The Hillcats seized a 3-1 lead in the fourth, and a Dash offense that was so dominant during the regular season needed a spark. Fortunately, that spark came in the sixth.

Keenyn Walker and Daniel Wagner strung together consecutive doubles to pull Winston within a run. Marcus Semien pushed Wagner to third with a well-placed groundout to second. However, league MVP Dan Black whiffed for the inning’s second out.

During a postseason of offensive frustration, it appeared that the Dash would spoil another golden scoring chance. Kevan Smith, quite frankly, rescued Winston-Salem.

Smith crushed a two-out, two-run homer to the bullpen bar in left-center field, propelling the Dash to a one-run lead they would never relinquish. The 5-4 victory evened the Mills Cup Championship Series and, at the time, seemed to give the Dash some huge momentum.

Unfortunately, we all know the end of the story. On a picturesque Sunday afternoon in the Triad, though, the Dash wrapped up the best season in BB&T Ballpark history with arguably the most important home run this facility has ever seen.

After Smith’s bomb cleared the fence, Winston-Salem fans truly thought their team was destined for a championship. What a game, and what a home run.

The Dash’s third-best moment of 2012 is ticketed for tomorrow here on the Dash Board blog, and Smith plays a big role once again. Talk to you then.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #5 – First-Half Clinch

The Dash celebrate their first-half crown June 16 in Wilmington (Blue Rocks staff photo).

This is the sixth installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next few days.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak
#7: 5-run 9th sinks Salem
#6: Postseason awards

Moment #5 (June 16): Winston-Salem clinches the first-half Southern Division crown in Wilmington.
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Powered by a 10-game winning streak and a star-studded lineup, the Dash were contenders throughout the season’s first half. Winston-Salem fought with the Salem Red Sox for the Southern Division crown, and the half’s final 10 games proved to be a thrilling ride.

After the Dash and Red Sox battled to a bizarre tie June 7, Winston-Salem owned a narrow half-game lead in the division race with 10 contests to play before the All-Star break.

In their final 12 games of the season, the Sox posted an 8-4 record, which certainly was a strong finish. However, the Dash were flat out better in the final charge for a playoff spot.

To start its final 10-game run of the first half, Winston posted a perfect 6-0 homestand at BB&T Ballpark with sweeps of Wilmington and Potomac. The Dash also earned a victory in what was a suspended game from mid-April.

All of that success set up a half-ending trip to Wilmington for a crucial four-game set. The Blue Rocks edged the Dash in the series opener, but Winston-Salem would not lose again in the first half.

Following a 2-1 win to trim their magic number to one, the Dash had a chance to clinch its 26th Carolina League playoff berth all-time June 16.

League MVP Dan Black came up with his signature hit, a first-inning three-run blast down the right field line. Winston scored the first five runs of the game before the Blue Crew battled back to tie the game.

Brady Shoemaker made sure the Dash never trailed en route to a Southern Division title. Shoemaker’s go-ahead two-run double in the sixth was the game-winning hit, and his RBI double two frames later all but put the Rocks away. Chris Bassitt shut the door in the ninth to secure a 9-5 win.

The Dash played one of their best games of the season to finish up one of the best 70-game runs in franchise history. This contest, which had plenty of highlights, validated many players’ claim that this was the “best team I’ve ever been on.” There is no question that this group was special, and every player in that clubhouse deserved the postgame celebration.

Stay tuned for the fourth-best moment of the season tomorrow. Moment number four involved one of the best pictures of the year mere seconds after one of the hits of the year. You won’t want to miss it.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #6 – Dash Dominate Postseason Awards

Dan Black and the Dash were well-represented on the year-end All-Star roster (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

This is the fifth installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next few days.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak
#7: 5-run 9th sinks Salem

Moment #6 (August 30): Dan Black and Tommy Thompson take home top league honors, while five Dash swingers earn year-end All-Star spots.
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This is the only Top 10 moment that did not take place on the field, but it probably embodies the Dash’s 2012 success better than any other moment this season.

On an otherwise typical Thursday morning, the Carolina League made an announcement that simply confirmed what everyone already knew: Winston-Salem was the circuit’s signature team this season.

First baseman Dan Black earned the CL’s Most Valuable Player award, and skipper Tommy Thompson took home the Manager of the Year honor. Black also joined four other Winston whackers on the year-end All-Star squad.

Carlos Sanchez was the All-Star second baseman, while Michael Earley, Brady Shoemaker and Trayce Thompson all made the squad as outfielders.

These five men, along with the other 52 who donned the Dash purple this season, helped Winston-Salem reach new heights in 2012. Winston posted the franchise’s second-best record since joining the CL 67 years ago. The Dash churned out a league-leading 21 double-digit run outputs. They led the Carolina League in almost every relevant offensive statistic, too.

Sure, a plethora of dangerous hitters helped the Dash to the Mills Cup Finals, but Tommy Thompson’s managing was critical, too. Tommy seemingly pushed the right button all the time, and his attitude rubbed off on every player in the dugout.

The Dash dominated the Carolina League, so it is no surprise they had the strongest presence when the league office announced these postseason awards. It was an incredible season for these six men and the Dash as a whole.

We will present the Dash’s fifth-best moment from the 2012 campaign tomorrow, and it involved some celebration. Have a good Friday night.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #7 – 5-Run 9th Stuns Salem

Michael Earley recorded the walk-off hit August 14 against Salem (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

This is the fourth installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next two weeks.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

#8: 10-game win streak

Moment #7 (August 14): Winston-Salem scores five in the ninth to walk off with a 10-9 win over Salem.
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In the first half of the season, the Dash and Salem Red Sox waged quite a battle for the Southern Division championship. Winston-Salem outlasted the Sox despite struggling against Salem in head-to-head matchups.

The second half was a much different story even though both teams endured many promotions to Double-A. Winston remained atop the circuit, while Salem sunk to the Southern Division’s basement.

With the playoffs three weeks away, these two teams played in a game that meant very little in the grand scheme of the playoff chase. Salem was mere days away from official elimination, while the Dash could only add one home game to their postseason schedule with a division crown.

Still, baseball has a way of making the ordinary extraordinary, and game 121 for the Dash proved to be special.

For eight and a half innings, Salem controlled the contest. The Red Sox led 6-0 through six innings and 9-5 entering the home half of the ninth, which is when the magic happened.

After a Juan Silverio leadoff home run, Daniel Wagner followed with a bunt single, and Keenyn Walker drew a free pass. Two batters later, Brandon Short pulled the Dash within a run thanks to a two-run double.

Following Dan Black’s well-struck fly out, Cyle Hankerd delivered a two-out double off the wall in center to push across the tying run.

On the next pitch, Michael Earley laced a single to right-center, and Hankerd rumbled around third to beat Shannon Wilkerson’s throw and complete the Dash’s most improbable comeback of 2012.

The Dash’s season featured 90 total victories, but this one was among the best. It continued Winston’s push for the minors’ top record, while Salem suffered one of its most deflating losses during a terrible second half.

We will present the Dash’s sixth-best moment from the 2012 campaign tomorrow. This is the only moment that did not technically take place on the field. Talk to you then.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #8 – 10-Game Win Streak

Marcus Semien (center) celebrates his grand slam April 25 against Potomac during the Dash’s 10-game win streak (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

This is the third installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next two weeks.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch
#9: Hankerd’s walk-off

Moment #8 (May 1): Dash-high 10-game winning streak concludes with 15-6 win at Potomac.
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On April 21, the Dash were 7-8. There was no talk about the best record in the minor leagues or a Carolina League postseason run. Quite frankly, Winston-Salem’s start was not eye-popping.

Fans should not overemphasize early returns in the game of baseball, and the Dash proved this in 2012. Winston-Salem was nothing special through 15 games. Then, Winston did not lose again until May 2.

For the first time since becoming the Dash, Winston won 10 consecutive games from April 22 to May 1. The final victory during this run was a 15-6 blowout in Potomac that featured the Dash’s highest run output of the first half.

Throughout the 10-game winning streak, the Dash outscored their opponents 86-35. Winston-Salem recorded its most lopsided victory of the campaign during the run (14-0 versus Potomac, April 25), and the Dash hit a season-high five homers in their triumph five days later at Potomac.

This 10-day journey also brought about a great feature on Twitter and on the blog: #DashWinStreakFacts. You can relive those facts here and here. A couple of our favorites:

- Wins by the Dash in their last 10 games: 10. Wins by the Charlotte Bobcats in their last 66 games: 7. (From former pitcher Jake Petricka)

- National US avg price for a gallon of gas at start of streak: $3.84. National US avg price for a gallon of gas at end of streak: $3.80. (From Dash Director of Statistical Research Caleb Pardick)

The Dash were the talk of the Carolina League in 2012, and the club’s incredible season truly began with this 10-game winning streak, which propelled Winston-Salem to its second-best season since joining the Carolina League in 1945.

After winning 10 straight, the Dash were definitely for real.

Stay tuned for the Dash’s seventh-best moment from the 2012 campaign, which featured three hours of frustration followed by a 17-minute comeback that stunned even the most optimistic Dash fans. We’ll have that for you tomorrow. Talk to you then.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #9 – Hankerd’s Walk-Off

Cyle Hankerd hit the Dash’s lone walk-off home run this season (Dan Barber/W-S Dash).

This is the second installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next two weeks.

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Second-half clinch

Moment #9 (July 8): Cyle Hankerd’s walk-off home run caps six-run comeback against Lynchburg.
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The Dash amassed 40 comeback victories during the 2012 season, but no battle back was bigger than Winston-Salem’s effort July 8 against Lynchburg.

The Hillcats enjoyed a 7-1 advantage at the game’s midway point, but the Dash rallied within one entering the seventh. However, Lynchburg’s three-run seventh extended the lead to 11-7.

In the home half of the eighth, the Dash scored four times and only mustered one hit, a three-run blast by Michael Earley, to knot the score at 11 apiece.

Both teams traded runs in the 11th frame, with Marcus Semien saving the Dash with a solo homer to kick off the bottom half.

Finally, after nearly four hours of baseball, Cyle Hankerd needed just one pitch to swing the Dash past the ‘Cats in the 12th. Hankerd clubbed a towering fly to left, and outfielder Bobby Stevens never saw the ball. It didn’t matter, because Hankerd’s big fly, which you can relive here, sailed to the left field berm and sent the BB&T Ballpark crowd home happy.

The Dash finished the regular season with the best record in full-season minor league baseball, and this 13-12 victory was one of the most improbable victories Winston-Salem snagged en route to that prestigious claim.

Stay tuned for the Dash’s eighth-best moment from the 2012 campaign, which prompted the awesome hashtag #DashWinStreakFacts. Talk to you then.

- Brian

Dash Top 10: #10 – Second-Half Clinch

Keenyn Walker’s glove helped the Dash clinch a second-half crown (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

This is the first installment of the “Dash Top 10,” where we rehash the top 10 moments from the Dash’s historic 2012 season. Stay tuned to the Dash Board Blog for the rest of the series over the next two weeks.

Moment #10 (August 30): Keenyn Walker’s dazzling double play clinches the second-half Southern Division title for Winston-Salem.
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The Dash put together one of the best seasons in Winston-Salem history, and they finished off a “clean sweep” in the regular season with a second-half championship.

The way Winston-Salem clinched that Southern Division crown was remarkable and worthy of inclusion on our year-end Top 10 list. It was the penultimate home game of the season, and the Dash held a 5-4 advantage over Lynchburg with one down in the top of the ninth. With Dan Brewer at first, Nick Ahmed crushed a ball to deep left-center. However, Keenyn Walker made one of the best defensive plays of 2012 for the final two outs of the game:

Winston-Salem skipper Tommy Thompson called it one of the best plays he has seen in person during his long baseball career, and it was an incredible way to end the chase for back-to-back division crowns.

Sure, the Dash already had a playoff spot locked up when Walker helped Winston track down the second-half Southern Division title, but Thompson and the rest of Winston’s clubhouse wanted to finish what they started. They certainly did it with a fantastic play to cap off the crown.

Stay tuned for our ninth-best moment from the regular season, which involves one of the most stunning comebacks in the Carolina League in 2012. Talk to you then.

- Brian

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