7-3-21 roundup: Pro baseball, Legion baseball, Pro basketball

By Richard Walker

Blake Lalli, Gardner-Webb University’s first major league baseball player, is making a name for himself as a minor league manager.

Blake Lalli

Lalli got another honor on Thursday when he was named the National League team’s bench coach for the upcoming SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on July 11 at 3 p.m. ET on the MLB Network as part of the major league’s All-Star Weekend in Denver, Col.

Lalli is in his first year as manager of the Class AAA West Reno Aces, the top minor league team in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization.

“I am very grateful to be a part of the Futures game this year,” Lalli said in a news release. “To be able to spend a couple of days around the best young players in the world will be exciting. I can’t wait to watch these kids put on a show for everyone and for baseball fans to see what kind of talent is coming.”

The Futures Game is a seven-inning contest between the top minor league prospects of the American and National leagues.

Lalli’s team is currently 31-17 and has the top record in Class AAA West.

A Pittsburgh native, Lalli has been a coach in the Diamondbacks’ organization since 2018; He was manager of the Class AA Kane County Cougars in 2018 and the Class AA Jackson Generals in 2019. The Cougars went 72-66 and the Generals went 78-57 before winning two playoff series to take the Southern League championship.

A Gardner-Webb player in 2002 and 2004 to 2006, Lalli was a 2006 Chicago Cubs’ free agent signee who also played for the Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves’ organization.

On May 18, 2012, Lalli made his major league debut with the Cubs. He also was promoted to the major leagues by the Brewers in 2013 and Braves in 2016.



Pro basketball

The Charlotte Hornets held workouts with NBA draft prospects on Friday, including a former local star Jaden Springer.

Springer, who averaged 12.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 25 games for Tennessee as a freshman in the 2020-21 season, scored 1,153 points in two seasons at Mint Hill’s Rocky River High School in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons before graduating from Bradenton, Fla., IMG Academy in 2020.

Other workout candidates on Friday were Sharife Cooper of Auburn, Luka Garza of Iowa, Makur Maker of Howard, Roko Prkacin of Cibona (Croatia), J.T. Thor of Auburn and James Bouknight of Connecticut.




Legion baseball

Pairings for the North Carolina Area IV playoffs will be determined at a Saturday meeting at Cherryville Post 100.

Cherryville and Cleveland County tied for the Western Division title with 10-4 divisional records and Mint Hill won the Eastern Division with an 8-2 division mark.

Teams will play best-of-five series starting Sunday and will determine an Area IV champion by July 25.

The Area IV winner advances to the state tournament hosted by Cherryville from July 28-Aug. 1. As host, Cherryville is already guaranteed a tournament berth. But should Cherryville win the Area IV title, the runner-up also would advance to a field that includes two teams from Area I, Area II and Area III.

The N.C. state tournament champion advances to the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Regional at Asheboro’s McCrary Park from Aug. 4-8.

Finally, the Mid-Atlantic Regional winner will be joined by seven other regional champions from across the country for the Aug. 12-17 American Legion World Series at Shelby’s Keeter Stadium at Veterans Field.



Pro baseball

Despite a 14-hit offense led by Boog Powell (three hits), Joshua Sale (two hits, three RBIs) and Mike Osinski (two hits, two RBIs), the Gastonia Honey Hunters lost 12-11 to the High Point Rockers on Friday at Gastonia’s Caromont Health Park.

Gastonia (13-17) continues the 10-game homestand on Saturday at 6:50 p.m. against High Point.