ASHEVILLE- The 2018 season of Asheville Tourists baseball was filled with entertaining games, individual accomplishments, and a stretch run that brought Asheville only two games away from a post-season berth. For many of the players, this was their first year playing in a season that featured 140 games on the schedule. These Tourists players performed above and beyond in the longest grind they have had to endure in their baseball careers.
Asheville as a whole put together a tremendous turnaround from the first half of the season to the second half. Asheville entered the All-Star break with a 27-42 first half record. The second half brought a renewed energy and a winning spirit that saw the Tourists finish with a 37-31 record following the break. Asheville finished the season 64-73 which is impressive when you consider the fact the Tourists won only three of their first 16 games.
The team was managed by Robinson Cancel who eclipsed the 100 career wins mark as a professional manager. Cancel entered the season with 58 wins over two seasons in short-season ball and currently has 122 wins under his belt. Paco Martin oversaw the hitters and helped lead the Tourists to the league's second-best batting average (.260) and second best on-base percentage (.321). Asheville paced the circuit in Home Runs (156) and finished second in runs scored (680).
Ryan Kibler coached the pitching staff to another impressive season. Asheville issued the second-fewest number of walks (323) in the league. The Tourists bullpen boasted a 2.90 ERA in the second half - nearly two full runs of an improvement from the first half. The Tourists posted a league best 48-2 record when leading after six innings; a clear indication that when given a lead Asheville's bullpen knew how to finish off opponents.
Individually, so many Tourists players made their mark in 2018. Casey Golden was named the South Atlantic League MVP after leading the league in Home Runs (34), RBI (95), runs scored (92), extra-base hits (60), and total bases (259). Golden was also named to the mid-season and post-season league All-Star teams.
Golden was joined on both teams by a pair of his Tourists teammates. Chad Spanberger finished as the league batting champion with a .315 average and Bret Boswell was also named to both the mid-season and post-season All-Star teams. Boswell finished with the fourth best batting average in the league.
Ryan Vilade also put together a fantastic full-season debut. Vilade finished tenth in the league with a .274 batting average and appeared in 124 games. Vilade hit .310 in the second half and had a .370 second half on-base percentage. The everyday shortstop hit a team best .298 on the road.
Sean Bouchard led the team in games played. Bouchard appeared in 125 games and spent time at first base, third base, left field, and right field. Sean led the league in doubles (34) and finished tied for second in RBI (75).
Matt McLaughlin and Taylor Snyder both provided stability on the infield and quality hitting throughout the season. McLaughlin hit 19 of his 23 doubles in the second half and finished the year with a 17-game reach base streak. Snyder was one of Asheville's best hitters against left-handed pitching and added eight Home Runs in his second season with the Tourists.
Garrett Schilling led Asheville's consistent pitching staff all year long. Schilling finished with a team high eight wins and was the only starting pitcher to finish with an ERA under 4.00. Schilling pitched the second most innings in the league (144.1) and finished fifth in strikeouts (135). Garrett also led the league in base-runners picked off with 16.
Will Gaddis , Lucas Gilbreath , and Nick Kennedy were the other three starting pitchers in Asheville all season. All three were dominant at times and the trio combined to record 17 wins.
The bullpen put together another excellent season. Tommy Doyle led the league in saves (18) and finished second in holds (8). Doyle finished the season with a 2.31 ERA and surrendered only three earned runs in 27 second half appearances. Tommy's second half ERA of 0.92 was especially impressive since he finished first in the league in appearances (52).
Erick Julio , Nate Harris , and Hayden Roberts were also exceptional out of the bullpen. Julio finished the season with a 3-0 record and a 1.86 ERA in his 24 relief appearances. Roberts went 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 21 appearances. Harris finished with 81 strikeouts in 70 innings and ranked third in the league in fewest walks per nine innings pitched among relievers.
The Asheville Tourists front office would like to deeply thank all of the players, coaches, and the Colorado Rockies for their part in making the 2018 season a memorable one in Asheville.