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.
___________

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

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