SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Quad-Cities catcher Cesar Salazar found his way to first base to open the eighth inning at Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Game, he opened the door for history to be made at South Bend’s Four Winds Field.
Salazar took first when he was hit by a pitch and while he was forced out at second on a grounder, he allowed Peoria’s Delvin Perez to reach base and ultimately score a game-tying run that forced extra innings and the debut of the winner-take-all home run derby.
With the score tied 3-3 after nine innings, a crowd of 7,464 watched each team select one player to participate in a rapid-fire home run derby. With a coach delivering pitches from behind a screen, each had 90 seconds to launch as many balls out of the park as possible.
Kane County’s Blaze Alexander of the West started by hitting one out, but the East ended up winning the tiebreaker when Chris Pitts of Bowling Green hit two homers in his final 30 seconds to give the East the all-star win.
In order to prevent an all-star tie like the one which occurred after 10 innings in Cedar Rapids in 1991, the unique format was used after all available pitchers received work among the 57 players used during the nine-inning game.
All four Quad-Cities position players reached base in the game, with Salazar and Trey Dawson each reaching twice.
The River Bandits — Salzar, Austin Dennis and Jeremy Pena — each reached base on singles while Dawson also was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning and walked in the seventh.
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Salazar’s effort in the eighth was followed by a fielder’s choice by Perez, who took second on an error on the play, stole third and collected the tying run on an errant throw to third as he swiped that bag.
That run also prevented Quad-Cities pitcher Matt Ruppenthal from being tagged with the loss.
The River Bandits right hander gave up two runs on three hits and walked a batter in one-third of an inning of work in the bottom of the fourth, which saw the East use a game-tying double by Great Lakes’ Niko Hulsizer and a sacrifice fly by West Michigan’s Ulrich Bojarski to take a 3-2 lead.
That came after Clinton’s Jerar Encarnacion gave the West team a short-lived 2-1 lead with his second hit of the game.
A starter in right field, Encarnacion collected the game’s first hit when he opened the second inning with a single to right.
The first of two sacrifice flies by West Michigan’s Bojarski gave the East a 1-0 lead in the second, but Encarnacion erased that with one swing of the bat in the fourth.
Following a leadoff walk to Nolan Gorman of Peoria, Encarnacion belted an opposite field homer. His two-run shot to right off of Great Lakes pitcher Brett de Geus on a 1-1 pitch provided the West with its only lead of the game.
Clinton’s Chris Vallimont started on the mound for the West, allowing one hit and striking out a pair of batters in a scoreless bottom of the first inning.
The LumberKings’ Humberto Mejia pitched the bottom of the third, striking out one of the three batters he faced in a perfect inning.