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Ribera, Tourists claim Sally crown

Asheville wins first outright league championship since '84
September 14, 2012
After 13 seasons, Joe Mikulik will finally get his ring.

Jordan Ribera drove in four runs and fell a triple shy of the cycle Friday as Asheville cruised past Greensboro, 10-4, to win its first outright South Atlantic League championship since 1984.

Chris Jensen (1-0) struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings for the Tourists, who won the best-of-5 Finals, 3-1.

Ribera, the Rockies' 2011 21st-round Draft pick, hit a go-ahead leadoff homer in the fourth, delivered a two-run single in the fifth and doubled home another run in the seventh. He went 3-for-5 and also scored twice.

Jensen, selected in the sixth round last year, held the Marlins' Class A affiliate to a pair of runs on five hits and a walk.

Asheville won the first-half Southern Division title and boasted the league's best overall record (88-52). The Tourists and Lexington Legends were declared co-champions in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

For Mikulik, the 2012 South Atlantic League Manager of the Year, the win was more than a decade in the making. The 48-year-old has managed Asheville for 13 seasons.

"Joe Miklulik is the best manager, by far, that we have ever played for," Ribera said. "He comes to the field with heart, emotion, energy, fire. He gets us fired up to play. It's a long season, it's tough. He brings that energy when we don't have it.

"We were so proud tonight to do it for him. It really was for him, not only ourselves."

Mikulik and center fielder Tyler Massey addressed the crowd at Greensboro's NewBridge Bank Park before heading to the clubhouse to celebrate.

"There's a lot of Asheville fans here and you guys are unbelievable, you guys have been here," Mikulik said. "Season-ticket holders, fans, our front office. You guys are unbelievable. We're lucky to have you guys, we're so fortunate. We're going to celebrate."

"It's unbelievable," added Massey. "A lot of credit goes to the coaches who are here like Joe Mikulik, Mike Devereaux and Joey Eischen."

Massey homered in the opening inning, but Greensboro answered in the bottom half on a solo shot by Austin Barnes. Ribera put the Tourists back in front in the fourth with his second postseason blast.

Asheville added three runs in the fifth and poured it on in the eighth. Ribera doubled home Taylor Featherston for his fourth RBI, then scored on a base hit by Will Swanner. Jared Simon added a two-run double and Brian Humphries capped the inning with an RBI single off reliever Nick Wittgren.

"I really just wanted to go out and contribute any way I could," Ribera said. "Last night, Taylor Featherston did a great job. We had so many guys step up. I had runners on tonight, just wanted to hit the ball hard, put it in play. I got a couple of pitches to drive, and I was able to do that."

Alex Gillingham gave up a walk and a single in the ninth but got Wilfredo Gimenez to ground to shortstop Trevor Story, who threw to Ribera for the final out.

"I'm very proud of this club. It's obviously one of the best clubs I've had," Mikulik told WLOS-TV. "Obviously, it's a great group of guys, they deserve all the credit. They've worked hard from the get-go. I'm proud of them, I'm proud of our fans."

Asheville last won an outright championship in 1984, but shared one in 2001. (Dano Keeney/

Greensboro was the first-half Northern Division champ and finished 80-59 overall. The Grasshoppers were seeking their second straight championship.

Ribera hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the decisive game of the semifinals but had been fairly quiet in this series, going 4-for-13.

Greensboro starter Josh Hodges (0-1), a 6-foot-7 right-hander, tied a season high with nine strikeouts but was charged with five runs -- four earned -- on five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. It was the most strikeouts by a Grasshoppers pitcher since Charlie Lowell fanned 14 on July 16.

Lowell faced four batters in the seventh on Friday but did not record an out, surrendering three runs on two hits and two walks.

Danny Wild is an editor for