Dayton's Sean Watson was the East League starter.
GENEVA, IL - The Midwest League’s midsummer classic concluded last night as the Eastern All-Stars came out victorious over their Western counterparts 8-2 in front of 8,698 fans at Elfstrom Stadium.
Dayton Manager Donnie Scott, who coached the Eastern squad, used nine different pitchers in the winning effort as the team combined to yield only five hits on the night. Scott started a different pitcher every inning yet still had nine pitchers left on the bench by the end of the game.
“I feel bad that I couldn’t get everybody in there but I talked to the pitchers before the game and I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Scott said about his pitching strategy.
“But I had five pitchers come in and say they couldn’t throw so I was okay with the relatively large roster.” (There were 18 pitchers on each side.)
The West team’s starting pitcher, Beloit hurler Jeff Manship, had a rough start to the game. On the first pitch of the night, DH Deik Scram (West Michigan), who was later named the game’s MVP, lined a ball up the middle that nearly hit Manship on the mound for the game’s first hit.
“I was looking for a pitch to drive and I’ve faced Manship a couple times so I expected a fastball and I drove it,” Scram said about his first at bat.
Scram stole second base during the ensuing at-bat and advanced to third after a fielder’s choice by SS Chris Valaika (Dayton). With two outs, Dayton’s Juan Francisco came to the plate and hit a weak ground ball down the third base line. Though 3B John Whittleman (Clinton) made a valiant effort, Francisco legged out an infield single that scored Scram and gave the East squad an early 1-0 lead.
Scott started his ace on the Dayton squad, Sean Watson, in the bottom of the first inning. After walking Whittleman and giving up a single to Brandon Buckman (Quad Cities), runners were on the corners with two outs. Up to the plate came C Chad Tracy (Clinton), the league's current RBI leader. With two outs, Watson showed why he was an all-star selection, striking out Tracy and ending the inning.
The West would even the game in the bottom of the second inning as DH Matt Sweeney (Cedar Rapids) went yard on Clayton Kershaw (Great Lakes). Kershaw, one of the best young prospects at the game, tipped his hat to Sweeney after the game.
“I fell behind in the count and I had to throw a fastball and he turned on it and he hit a bomb,” said Kershaw.
Though Kershaw surrendered the run, he would end up the winning pitcher in the game.
The East retaliated in the third inning, scoring two runs as Scram again led off by getting on base via a walk. 2B Justin Turner (Dayton) then laced a double to left-center off Omar Poveda (Clinton) that scored Scram, his second run of the game. After a wild pitch advanced Turner to third, Valaika hit a sacrifice fly deep to center that drew no throw and easily scored Turner. With two outs, RF Travis Snider (Lansing) drew one of his three walks on the day and wound up coming around to score after two consecutive singles from 1B Eduardo Perez (Great Lakes) and CF Gorkys Hernandez (West Michigan).
Poveda, who gave up three runs in the third inning, shouldered the loss for the West squad. The West team would only score once more in the bottom of the third as Whittleman, who led off the inning with a single, scored off a double to right-center from Buckman. After Buckman’s hit in the bottom of the third, the West only had one more hit the entire game, a triple by 2B Jose Vallejo (Clinton) in the seventh inning.
Scram, who finished 1-2 on the day with two runs, may never have won the MVP if the West squad had started a left-handed pitcher.
“If they (the West squad) started a lefty pitcher, I probably wouldn’t have put Scram at the leadoff position,” said Scott. “Thankfully I did and it worked out for us.”
Scram scored the team’s first two runs by doing what he has done best all year, get on base.
“As a leadoff hitter you want to get on base and score and that’s what I tried to do,” said Scram. Scram came into the game as the league’s leader in batting average hitting a smooth .347 at the all-star break.
The host Kane County Cougars struggled mightily on the day going a combined 0-5 on the day, as CF Jermaine Mitchell (0-1) was the only player to reach base on a walk in the ninth inning. In addition to Mike Masssaro (0-2) and Michael Affronti’s (0-2) woes, Cougars' closer Scott Moore didn’t have one of his better outings, surrendering two runs in the ninth inning while only recording one out.
Buckman finished the game with two of the West team’s five hits including one RBI. The East squad, which had 13 hits on the night, got multiple-hit games from Matt Liuzza (Lansing), who went 2-for-2 with an RBI, and Joey Side (South Bend), who finished 2-for-5.
In addition to Scram, Snider also crossed home plate twice on the day for the East squad.