In the end, a ninth inning knock off the glove of shortstop Greg Miclat turned out to be the difference in a 4-3 California League victory over the Carolina League All-Stars.
Every player on either roster got into the game except for Myrtle Beach Pelicans ace Randall Delgado who was unavailable after tossing seven innings of two-run baseball against Frederick on Sunday. T.J. McFarland and Craig Westcott earned the starts for the Carolina League and California League respectively and it was the Cal League who struck first.
In the top of the first inning, San Jose Giants centerfielder Juan Perez began a big day at the plate with a double to left-center off McFarland. The next batter Alexi Amarista lifted a fly ball to centerfield for out number one, but Justin Greene's throw bounced away from third baseman Will Middlebrooks, allowing Perez to score the game's first run.
Perez, who blasted eight home runs in the pre-game Home Run Derby, continued his power stroke in the third inning as he took Salem Red Sox starter Brock Huntzinger deep for a two-run blast, extending the Cal League's lead to 3-0.
With Myrtle Beach Pelicans phenom Julio Teheran in the game in the top of the fourth inning, Modesto Nuts catcher Jordan Pacheco blasted a 97 mph fastball to deep left field. It looked like a home run, and the Cal League's fourth run of the night, but Winston-Salem Dash outfielder Brandon Short leaped high in the air and robbed the round-tripper from Pacheco, concealing the baseball from fans, umpires, and broadcasters before firing it back into the infield with a grin on his face.
The Carolina League got a run back in the bottom of the fourth inning when Red Sox second baseman Oscar Tejeda annihilated a Justin Fitzgerald offering deep into the left field bleachers to get the Carolina League on the board.
The score would stay that way until the bottom of the seventh inning when Inland Empire's Nathan Eovaldi surrendered a pair of Carolina League runs to knot the game at three apiece. In the frame, the Carolina Leaguers knocked four base hits with runs scoring on a sacrifice fly from South Carolina native Justin Greene and an RBI single from Frederick Keys outfielder Ronnie Welty.
With two of the best relief pitchers in all of minor league baseball in Brian Woodall and Brad Brach closing out the game for the Cali League All Stars, it would be a tough task for the Carolina Leaguers to try to win the game in the late innings. With the score still tied at three, it would be the Carolina Leaguers who blinked first, allowing a single run in the top of the ninth.
Keys reliever Jose Duran allowed a double to Cal League RBI leader Rich Poythress with one out in the frame, and after striking out Bakersfield Blaze catcher Jose Felix, Rocket Wheeler brought on the Winston-Salem Dash closer Gregory Infante to pick up the final out. After surrendering a walk to the first man he faced, Stockton Ports third baseman Stephen Parker roped a line drive off the glove of the shortstop Miclat as Poythress came around to score the go-ahead run.
Brach, who converted 25 of 26 save opportunities for the Lake Elsinore Storm in the season's first half, retired the first two men he faced but made it interesting when Miclat hit a two-out bloop single to left to send the winning run to the plate in the form of Greene. Greene blasted a high, deep fly ball to center field but Perez corralled the long fly ball to secure the California League victory.
The win went to Woodall, who racked up a 0.28 ERA in the season's first half while Brach picked up yet another save. The loss for the Carolina League All Stars went to Duran.
This win marks the first time in the 15-year history of this cross-continental contest that the Cal League has won the game in back-to-back years, after a 2-1, 10 inning victory in Lake Elsinore, California in 2009.
Each team was awarded a Major League Baseball Advanced Media Top Star Award, and for the Carolina League, Tejeda took home the honor after blasting his solo home run. For the Cal League, Perez deservingly snagged the award after going 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, and two runs scored.
For the Pelicans, Julio Teheran and J.J. Hoover each made appearances in the ballgame with Teheran dazzling the sellout crowd with 98 mph heat in his two shutout innings of work. Hoover hit 94 mph on the gun in his 2/3 of an inning of work, striking out two of the three men he faced.
The game was the second time Myrtle Beach has hosted the contest in the last three seasons, and sellout crowds have witnessed a well-pitched, tightly-contested affair in each game.