Today’s Throwback Thursday photo goes back to the 2006 baseball season when the Bulldogs won the Big South Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA tourney.
Asheville had finished in last place in 2005 and was picked to finish in last again in 2006. The Bulldogs were a young team made up of sophomores and juniors. But early in the year, Willie Stewart’s club knocked off Michigan and Georgia Southern to let everyone know this was a much different team than the previous season.
Only six teams made it to the league tournament in 2006. The Bulldogs used a late-season sweep of VMI to push them into sixth place and into the tourney.
In the tournament that was held at Coastal Carolina, sophomore pitcher Alan DeRatt threw a shutout over top-seeded Birmingham-Southern in the first round. The Bulldogs advanced to the title game with wins over High Point and Liberty.
Facing Liberty in the championship game, the Dogs fell behind 10-0 and it looked like the run was over. However, Asheville kept battling back and closed to 10-7 in the eighth inning. DeRatt came out of the bullpen and kept the Flames at bay while the Dogs rallied.
With the bases loaded, Rob Vernon hit a grand-slam home run to put the Bulldogs stunningly in front, 11-10. Asheville added five more runs in the ninth as a clutch hit from Elliott Arrington gave the Blue & White some insurance.
DeRatt got the Flames out in the bottom of the ninth as the Dogs won their only Big South Conference baseball championship with a 16-11 triumph. Vernon was named MVP of the tournament, while Matt Henson, Arrington and DeRatt earned All-Tournament honors.