Good to the last out
There was no way you could script it any better for the Medford Rogues during Tuesday’s inaugural Great West League All-Star Game at Harry & David Field.
With the best of the best the first-year league has to offer in uniform for the premiere event, the host Rogues still managed to put their fingerprints all over a nail-biting 6-5 win by the North All-Stars over the South in front of a crowd of 2,467.
“It was really important honestly,” Rogues first baseman Johnny DeLaCruz said of coming out victorious. “With the Home Run Derby yesterday, they had a South player (Dalton DeVries) take it and we kind of took that with a grain of salt and wanted to get a win here today and do something for the North, and we did it.”
The North All-Stars — comprised of players from Medford, Portland and Chico — scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit, with Medford’s Derron Davis, DeLaCruz, Cam Russ and Connor Lowrie helping create the uprising.
“Everyone here earned it so you’re playing with a bunch of good players,” DeLaCruz said of the nip-and-tuck affair. “We just came out here and tried to do our best and put on a show for the fans, it was a great experience.”
DeLaCruz initially plated the go-ahead run in the fifth inning and ultimately wound up with the game-winning RBI on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning that pushed North’s lead to 6-1. While that seemed insurmountable, the South All-Stars — made up of players from Marysville, Lodi and Sacramento — gave North all it could handle with a ninth-inning rally.
Relief pitcher Jacob Allbee, who entered the game with seven saves for Portland, saw Austin Call of Marysville reach safely on a wild pitch on strike three to open the ninth. After Lodi’s Casey Meyer singled and T.J. Dove of Marysville walked to load the bases, things got plenty interesting for North. Allbee secured a strikeout before Steven Mercado of Marysville sent a towering shot to right-center field for a two-run double that made it 6-3.
Lodi’s Joe Montes made it 6-4 on an RBI groundout before teammate Nelson Muniz supplied a ground-rule RBI double to centerfield to make it a one-run affair.
“Going into the ninth inning up 6-1 you didn’t think anything about it,” said DeLaCruz, “but we’re playing with a bunch of great players and they put it down to the last out to make it a close game that came down to the wire.”
Undaunted by the potential South rally, Allbee reached back and secured a game-clinching strikeout of Marysville’s Chris Papapietro — second only in GWL hitting to Medford’s Spencer Steer at .350.
“I wasn’t getting nervous,” said Portland shortstop Sahid Valenzuela. “I have a lot of confidence in our closing pitcher Allbee, he’s come through all season long so I knew he was going to pull it through.”
For his efforts, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Valenzuela was named the All-Star Game MVP by major league scouts on hand after going 2-for-4 with one run scored and a handful of defensive assists.
“It’s an honor,” Valenzuela said of earning the game’s top honor. “Knowing I just came out of high school and I got to be the MVP, it’s a pleasure to win this award.”
The South All-Stars struck first in the first inning off Medford starter Reece Green when Bo McClintock plated Papapietro on an RBI single.
In the pivotal fifth inning, Valenzuela got things going against Marysville reliever Kevin Baranowski with a leadoff single and moved to second when Davis drew a walk. After a flyout to left field by Portland’s Marcus Doi, pinch-hitter Josh Falco of Chico tied the game on an RBI single.
DeLaCruz then made his first appearance of the contest as a pinch-hitter and smacked an RBI single for a 2-1 advantage.
“Hitting is contagious, I’ve always heard that,” said DeLaCruz. “It’s a true statement because if a team gets rolling, it just keeps going and it’s very contagious.”
After Russ singled to load the bases, South turned to reliever Marcus Garcia of Sacramento but he promptly walked Lowrie for another run and then Chico’s Daniel Schneemann added a fielder’s choice RBI to plate DeLaCruz to give North a 4-1 edge.
North tacked on single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, with Chico’s David Noworyta singling home Russ and then DeLaCruz plating Falco on a sacrifice fly after Falco had walked and stole second and third.
Russ finished 2-for-4 with one run to join Valenzuela as North’s only multiple hitters, while Muniz was 3-for-5 with one RBI for the South.
Medford’s Kade Wagner earned the pitching victory after pitching a scoreless fifth inning.
“It was real exciting and great competition, we had a lot of fun here in Medford,” Valenzuela said in summing up the debut event. “It was just so much fun out here playing with those guys.”
Patterson, Wanner (2), Kornley (3), A. Kearney (4), Giovannoni (4), Baranowski (5), Garcia (5), McCarthy (7), Troiano (8), Merkel (8) and Stratton, Ortiz (6); Green, D. Kearney (2), Davenport (3), Wagner (5), Robeniol (6), Soroko (7), Byrd (8), Allbee (9) and Garcia, Noworyta (6). W — Wagner. L — Baranowski. 2B — S: Muniz, Mercado; N: Lowrie, Russ.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry