Tourists come home with first-half title

Avoided July 29 tiebreaker with 8-6 triumph over Crawdads

(John M. Setzler Jr./

By Larry Fleisher / Special to | June 15, 2008 5:28 PM ET

The last thing the Asheville Tourists wanted to do was wait six more weeks to determine the South Atlantic League's Southern Division first-half champion.

David Christensen hit a three-run homer and the Tourists held off the Hickory Crawdads, 8-6, on Sunday to capture their first division title since 2001.

Asheville (46-24) had dropped six of seven heading into its first-half finale. A loss by Charleston on Sunday would have clinched the crown for the Tourists, but the RiverDogs did not cooperate. So even though it had taken six of eight meetings with Charleston this season, Asheville had to beat Hickory or wait until July 29 -- and the next game against the RiverDogs -- to break the tie.

"I think that's something the league needs to look into," Tourists manager Joe Mikulik said. "I think you have to settle somehow with head-to-head and division record. I'm going to bring it up. I think something's got to be done. For any franchise, they would like it to be settled before July 29."

That's not something Mikulik has to worry about anymore.

"It was determined. We're a game up, so it's all said and done," he said. "We're just elated, we're just excited. We left it on the field. We won it outright. All these guys deserve a lot of credit."

The Tourists scored twice in the first inning but fell behind, 3-2, after four. In the sixth, Asheville struck for four runs as Christensen connected off starter Dustin Molleken (4-4) for his sixth homer of the season.

The Tourists padded the lead in the eighth and ninth, runs that became very important when closer Randall Taylor faltered a little in the bottom of the ninth.

Erik Huber hit an RBI double and Andrew Walker launched a two-run homer before Taylor settled down and struck out Caleb Fields to finally secure the division title.

"It's been really wild the way we've been losing games," Mikulik said. "It's been kind of silly. You hold on to your edge of your seat and think 'Oh, boy, here we go again.'"

Robinson Fabian, who joined the Tourists on June 3, allowed three runs on five hits over four innings. Joey Williamson (2-0) followed with four perfect frames, fanning six, for the win.

Molleken (4-4) remained winless since May 14 after surrendering six runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Larry Fleisher is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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