Leading off the bottom of the second inning, Nathaniel Lowe (Vienna Riverdogs) – the Cal Ripken League’s newly crowned home run derby champ – drew a seemingly inconspicuous walk, the first of six on the night for the South Division All-Stars at Shirley Povich Field.
Four batters later, the D.C. Gray’s Kurt Sinnen stepped to the left-handed portion of the batters box to face Maryland sophomore Taylor Bloom. Despite quickly falling behind 0-2, Sinnen got the best of the Gaithersburg Giants righty firing a single to left to plate Lowe, the South’s first run. The Big Train’s own Harrison Crawford (Creighton) reached on a single prior, but was gunned down at home by Silver Spring-Takoma outfielder Zachary Racusin trying to score from second.
Despite being out hit eight to seven, the South All-Stars (composed of the Bethesda Big Train, Herndon Braves, Vienna Riverdogs, Alexandria Aces and D.C. Grays) took advantage of six free passes allowed by their North Division foes.
After recording consecutive wins heading into the all-star break, Harold Myles (Baltimore Dodgers) walked the first two batters he faced in the fourth inning. Like Bloom two innings prior, Myles would suffer the consequences. An important wild pitch from the Southern University right-hander advanced Jordan Sergent (Vienna Riverdogs) and Sinnen – the recipients of Myles’ two walks – to second and third with no outs.
Myles forced Justin Morris (Maryland) to spray a groundball to the right side – a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play ball if not for the wild pitch advancing both runners – scoring Sergent from third.
Had the wild pitch not been issued and a double play been turned instead of the run-scoring groundout, Myles would have ended the bottom of the fourth striking out second baseman Brett Netzer (Alexandria Aces).
Instead, Netzer’s whiff brought Big Train shortstop Zach Kirtley (St. Mary’s, Calif.) to the plate with two outs and Sinnen planted on third base. A lined shot to center on a 1-2 Myles offering scored Sinnen – the game’s winning run and eventual Most Outstanding Player – giving the South All-Stars a three-zip lead heading to the fifth.
The South would only manage one more hit on the evening, stranding Danny Pardo (Alexandria Aces) on second after a two-out single and stolen base in the seventh inning off University of Mississippi hurler Will Stokes (Baltimore Redbirds).
Managed by the Big Train’s Eric Williams, the South squad relied on nine different pitchers each tossing an inning of work to hold off the talented North Division stars. Combined, the South scattered eight hits and struck out nine while only walking three batters.
In the sixth and seventh innings, the North strung together consecutive scoring chances. A two-out, two-strike delivery to rising University of Maryland freshman Marty Costes (Baltimore Redbirds) was roped down the left field line, moving Cameron Burns (S.S.-Takoma Thunderbolts) to third and putting runners in scoring position for the North.
After a passed ball charged to Morris moved Costes to third and scored Burns, the North sent the tying runner to the plate down 3-1. After a walk to Nick Dunn (S.S.-Takoma Thunderbolts), Nick DiEva (Alexandria Aces) stifled the rally getting Evan Mendoza (Baltimore Dodgers) to groundout for the inning’s final out.
After a scoreless top of the seventh, the South called on 6-foot-8 Alexandria Aces starter Gabe Mosser who entered the all-star break second in the league with a 0.78 earned run average. With two outs – a reoccurring trend for the North All-Stars – the speedy Kevin Williams (Rockville Express), son of former NFL star Kevin Williams Sr., drew a walk.
Nick Perkins (Baltimore Redbirds), the third and final catcher used by the North, made his lone at-bat count. The Ole Miss Rebel launched a first pitch double off the base of the scoreboard in left-center plating Williams from first to cut the lead to one.
Denis Mikush, whose two-year 0.36 ERA and one earned run allowed in Cal Ripken League play are simply otherworldly, threw a shutdown eighth inning to allow South-Division saves leader Mitch Aker to close out the contest.
Aker struck out the first and final batters he faced, earning the save and securing the 3-2 victory for the South Division. He would be the only South Division pitcher who faced the minimum three batters in his appearance. Bloom would be tagged with the loss, while Jack Gomersall (Vienna Riverdogs) earned the win after tossing a shutout second inning. The sophomore from the Virginia Military Institute is 4-1 on the year with a league-best 0.52 earned run average in 32 innings on the mound.
Big Train Performances:
Tim Yandel (Tulane) started the game for the South Division, allowing two hits but stranding them both in one inning of work. Walker Sheller (Stetson) worked the top of the third, hitting a batter but allowing no other baserunners. In the fifth, Drew Strotman (St. Mary’s, Calif.) became the first Big Train representative to strike out a batter in the game, punching out both Reid Leonard (Gaithersburg Giants) and Kevin Williams.
Justin Morris spent the fourth through sixth innings behind the plate, catching Strotman’s two-strikeout fifth inning.
Zach Kirtley got the start at shortstop, plating the eventual game-winning run with an RBI single in the fourth. The St. Mary’s shortstop was the only South Division all-star to record two hits on the evening, going 2-3 with two singles in five innings of work.
Chris Lewis (Sacramento State), starting in left, went 1-3 over five innings before giving way to Danny Pardo in the sixth inning.
Harrison Crawford, starting at third, completed a starting defensive left side composed entirely of Big Train members –Kirtley at short and Lewis in left – while tallying a hit in three at-bats in the seven hole.
Cody Brown (Mississippi State) was held hitless in two at-bats after entering the game in the top of the sixth inning.
All-Star Notes: The all-star festivities kicked off with the Chandler Home Run Derby. Nathaniel Lowe, the contest’s only left-handed hitter, was crowned the derby champ after his victory-sealing 420-foot moonshot cleared the right field fence … The D.C. Gray’s Kurt Sinnen, a sophomore at Old Dominion University, won the game’s Most Outstanding Player award after breaking a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the second, and scoring the deciding third run in the fourth inning … Both the North and South Division All-Stars left 11 runners on base … The Baltimore Redbirds sent 11 players to the All-Star Game, good for tops in the league. The Bethesda Big Train and the Vienna Riverdogs each sent nine … En-Sih Huang (S.S.-Takoma Thunderbolts) threw a 1-2-3 fifth inning with one strikeout, becoming the first North Division pitcher to escape an inning of work without allowing a baserunner … The University of Maryland sent five current or future players to the all-star contest: Marty Costes, Nick Dunn, Taylor Bloom, Justin Morris and Ryan Selmer
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