Victors scored single runs in six of first seven innings Thursday, July 6, including home runs by Hatch of Nevada and Million of Jefferson City. North ended game with tying run at second.
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — With single runs in six of the first seven innings, including a pair of home runs over the left field wall at spacious “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium, the Better Way, LLC South All-Stars turned aside the Barnes-Baker Motors North team 6-4 Thursday, July 6, in the 2017 Pepsi-Cola MINK League All-Star Game.
Capping a full, hot day and evening which also saw catcher Kale Emshoff of the Clarinda (Iowa) A’s dramatically win the Hedrick Medical Center Home Run Derby prior to the league’s third All-Star Game, the South vs. North duel wasn’t decided until righthander Jacob Voss of the Jefferson City (Mo.) Renegades – the league’s newest club – struck out Drew Standifer of the St. Joseph (Mo.) Mustangs with runners at second and third bases in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the South’s 2-runs margin.
What eventually turned out to be the decisive run scored in the top of the sixth inning when outfielder Zack Ehlen of the Joplin (Mo.) Outlaws hit into a bases-full forceout at third base, scoring Jeff City’s Cole Evans – runnerup to Emshoff in the Home Run Derby.
That run made it 5-3 and the South tacked on another in the seventh on a single by Nate DeChaine of the Ozark Generals before the North netted the final run of the night on Standifer’s 2-outs single that plated Louis Niemerg of Sedalia in the bottom half.
No pitcher on either side worked more than one inning on the hill and only two hurlers – Cody Whiting of Sedalia’s Bombers and Austin Gussman of host team Chillicothe for the North – got less than three outs. Whiting struck out both batters he faced in the top of the eighth and Gussman got the last out of the ninth.
Needing a last-gasp comeback, the North nearly got it.
Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats infielder Anthony Lantigua, who entered defensively in the fifth inning and ended up with three plate appearances, got a swinging-bunt single down the third-base line for his third hit with two outs and Emshoff reached when his towering popup on a 3-2 pitch landed uncaught behind shortstop. A wild pitch advanced them, giving Standifer a chance to tie the game with a basehit, but Voss persevered.
The South never trailed and was never caught after a 1-out blast well over the left field wall by L.J. Hatch of the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons gave it a 2-1 lead in the second.
Robert Berning’s single with two outs in the top of the third made it 3-1 and a circuit clout by Mike Million of Jefferson City pushed the margin to 4-2 in the sixth.
After a pair of errors by the North in the top of the first paved the way for the South to get on the scoreboard, the host team’s Ramger Iglesias – whose miscue on a high bouncer he appeared to lose in the descending sun – atoned for the boot.
He drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first, stole second base, took third on a groundout to second, and trotted home on Chillicothe teammate Justin Blasinski’s 2-out, RBI single to left-center field.
Once Hatch put the South right back in front, the North was lefet paying catch-up the rest of the way and never got that accomplished.
In terms of noteworthy stats, Chillicothe had two players – teammates from Bloomfield College in New Jersey distinguish themselves offensively. Lantigua was the lone player with more than two hits, finishing three for three, and Iglesias, who doubled leading off the third, took third when his hit was fumbled in right-center, and scored, was one of only two players to score twice. The South’s Million dented the dish twice, too.
Had there been a “most valuable player” award given, Hatch, a senior at New Mexico State last school year, might have been the top candidate. In addition to his home run which put his team in front to stay, he turned in one of the contest’s top defensive gems when he ranged about 40-50 feet into right-center field from his second base post to make a back-to-the-infield catch of a pop fly in the North fourth. In his second and last at-bat, Hatch was robbed off a second hit by a sprawling stop by North first baseman Josh Williams of St. Joseph in the fourth.
Pitching-wise, Voss’ fanning of the side – bookending the two fluky baserunners he allowed – in the ninth and Whiting’s whiffing of both men he faced were the most-dynamic outings.
The near-capacity crowd was largely in place at the beginning of the home run derby at 5 p.m.
Featuring one entrant from each of the league’s eight teams, the event built some significant drama after a slow start in which several first-round “matches” saw the “winner” advance with a solitary long ball.
In the semifinals, the pace picked up, peaking with the last pairing when Emshoff and Sedalia’s Mitch Barrow were tied after each had made his 10 “outs” (non-home run swings).
That sent them to a 5-outs “overtime” in which Barrow, batting last each round, dramatically tied things again with, down to his last out, a fifth home run. When righthanded-hitting Emshoff again slugged several over the wall to put on the pressure, Barrow again reached his last out needing one more blast to draw even again. This time, however, the lefty-swinger hit only a popup and the Iowa team’s player moved on to battle and beat Evans in the finals.
The MINK League’s 2017 All-Star Day, shifted to a different league locale after being hosted by St. Joseph the first two years, began with a several-hours “scouting combine” in which more than 100 league players were able to be tested, evaluated, and observed by scouts from at least a couple of Major League Baseball organizations (including the Kansas City Royals) and college coaches.