The South rises
Early offense propels team in contest
STATE COLLEGE — Ross Adolph and the South came out of the gate with an early offensive outburst that was similar to the fireworks show that followed a 7-1 win over the North in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game Tuesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
After hometown second baseman Nick Dunn singled and Mahoning Valley’s Tyler Freeman worked a walk, Adolph ripped a full-count fastball to straightaway center field, turning Eric De La Rosa around as he was unable to come close to the ball.
Both Dunn and Freeman were on the run, but Adolf showed off his wheels, scooting into third base with a two-run triple to score the first runs of the game.
Adolf scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Edwin Rodriguez to right-center field.
Two innings later the South again struck for three more runs and Adolf was again at the center of it — well, the beginning, really.
Leading off the third, Adolph hit a rocket of a home run well into the right-field bleachers that sit 18 feet, 5 1/2 inches high.
He finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored on his way to being named the game’s MVP.
“As soon as I found out he was from the University of Toledo — the same school I went to — I moved him to the three-hole,” South team and Spikes Manager Joe Kruzel said. “He came through for us. … He put a couple of good swings on it and took advantage of it.”
South scored two more runs in the frame to take a commanding 6-1 lead over the North squad.
Rodriguez and Rafael Marchan each reached base via singles and as Jerer Encarnacion came up throwing from right field in an attempt to get Rodriguez on third, Marchan advanced to second on the play to put a pair of runners in scoring position.
West Virginia’s Travis Swaggerty perfectly placed a bloop single to left to score both runners.
“We found some chances to score some runs and they did they did that,” Kruzel said.
It’s no secret that even though it’s an exhibition game, players from both sides want to be competitive and give their team a chance to score. For North and Batavia Muckdogs’ manager Mike Jacobs, he reminded the team to have some fun despite the early struggles.
“I think you just let them know (to have fun) and let them know it doesn’t really matter what the score is,” he said. “I told them to go out there and compete. There’s obviously a lot of eyes on them as I saw a few scouts here. It was an opportunity to showcase their talents and regardless of the results, I think the guys just had a good time. That’s what it’s all about.”
The North struck for its only run between the South’s three-run performances.
Tyler Dearden reached on an error by shortstop Tyler Freeman, who had the ball slip right out of his hand on the throw to first due to some slick field conditions with a light drizzle seen throughout the game.
Dearden’s Lowell teammate Korby Batesole followed suit with a double that was out of the reach of Dunn and went into right-center field to setup a great scoring opportunity with no outs.
Crosscutters’ pitcher Rafael Carvajal responded rather nicely, allowing just Dearden to score on a fielders choice and stranding Batesole at third.
Overall, the South was commanding on the mound as the nine pitchers used collectively allowed just one unearned run while striking out nine and walking two.
The most dominant moment occurred in the top of the third when South’s Luis Santos from Mahoning Valley threw a fastball to Sean Reynolds of Batavia that reached triple-digit speeds. He quickly pointed to the radar reading in right field. Then to just play mind tricks, throws a changeup in the mid-80s that locked up Reynolds.
The two had a great moment after as Santos went and hugged Reynolds at home as if he was saying he’s sorry.
“The kids seemed to really enjoy the atmosphere of it and they had a lot of fun with it which is outstanding,” Kruzel said. “But at the same time, they competed. … The pitching really did a super job.”
The South scored its last run in the fourth when Willy Yahn of Auburn tripled to the deepest part of the park in left-center field, tucking into the corner reading 410 feet.
He scored on a wild pitch.
Collectively, the Spikes had three players — Dunn, Edwin Figuera and Delvin Perez — represent the home club in the game. They didn’t have much of a say in the outcome, going a combined 1-for-6 in the contest.
Dunn was the only starter for the Spikes and he went 1-for-2 with a walk and run scored.
“They didn’t put too much pressure on themselves,” Kruzel said. “They just went out there and enjoyed the moment and really embraced it. It was good to see that they all got two at-bats. … Especially in front of the home crowd, it’s not that easy sometimes for kids, but they really let the game just come to them and have a lot of fun with it.”
The most special moment of the night didn’t belong to the three homegrown players or manager, but rather, to a kid near and dear to the organization.
Josiah Viera, serving as a special coach for the South, was tasked with handing over the team’s lineup card at the beginning and then switching out Randy Alcantara for Crosscutters’ teammate Keylan Killgore on the mound in the ninth.
Viera got a touching moment as the home crowd stood and both teams exited their dugouts for a standing ovation. Upon leaving the mound, Viera twice did a tip of the cap before being carried off the field by Kruzel.