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Asheboro Zookeeper teammates celebrate with Chase Heath (44) after a home run.    Eric Abernethy/Randolph Hub

Zookeepers mid-season wrapup

ASHEBORO — After finishing the first half of the Coastal Plain League season with a winning record, the Asheboro ZooKeepers began the second half last week with one goal in mind: Win the second half West Division championship and earn a berth into the CPL playoffs. 


Head coach Korey Dunbar said he has the team to accomplish that feat.


The ZooKeepers finished the first half 12-11 and in fourth place in the West Division, but wins are coming more frequently and Dunbar, whose team is 4-2 in early second-half action, likes what he sees on the field.


“I think we have a pretty good read on our guys and rotating them in and letting them get their feet under them,” Dunbar said prior to last Saturday night’s win over the Hi-Toms. “We’ve given players ABs (at-bats) and we now know who we can use in certain situations and who thrives in certain situations and who doesn’t.”


A pair of ZooKeepers were recently selected to be a part of the CPL Select Team, two separate teams who battled the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last Saturday and Sunday at the National Training Complex in Cary. 


Asheboro in the prestigious event by catcher Chase Heath, who was hitting .351 in 10 games for Asheboro after arriving from Central Missouri, which qualified for the Division II World Series, and Clemson hurler Noah Samol, who had given up just 11 hits in 21 innings of work with 25 strikeouts.


“I’m extremely excited for those guys,” said Dunbar, a former player at the University of North Carolina. “Both of those guys are extremely talented.”


The ZooKeepers are 6-3 in their last nine games and one of the reasons has been the play of Randleman High School graduate Hunter Atkins, who just finished his first year at UNCG. He was hitting .309 in 22 games (25-for-81) with 18 runs scored, five doubles, two triples, one home run and a team-high 19 RBIs.


“He's a phenomenal kid,” Dunbar said of Atkins. “He works his tail off and the best way to describe him is once the lights turn on, he becomes such a gamer.”


Middle Georgia State’s Yariel Diaz (4-for-8 in two games), Barton’s Sal Laimo (19-for-61 for a .311 batting average with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs), Lenoir-Rhyne’s Owen Blackledge (.281 with 20 runs scored and 13 RBIs), L-R’s Zach Evans (.275 with 19 runs and 12 RBIs) and Gardner-Webb’s Ryan Kennell (.318 with nine RBIs) will all be counted on in the second half.


On the mound, UNCG’s Danny Thompson, South Florida’s Mason Manriquez, Franklin & Marshall’s Peter Mullen, L-R’s Caleb Cockerham and Middle Georgia State’s David Johnson all have two wins. L-R’s Spencer Floyd has a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings pitched. MGS’s Dylan Dickert has been strong out of the pen.


“We can play with anyone in this league and anyone in this league can play with us,” Dunlap said. “We have to take it one game at a time.”

ZooKeepers to host fireworks show

The ZooKeepers, along with the city of Asheboro, will host the annual fireworks show on Wednesday, July 3, at McCrary Park. Tickets are available on line at the ZooKeepers website. Asheboro will be hosting the Boone Bigfoots in that contest, which begins at 7 p.m. The fireworks show will follow the completion of the game.