WAREHAM, Mass.–A year after many scouts left the Cape Cod League all-star game disappointed by peculiar lineup management and a general lack of energy, the mood was quite a bit different this time around. A National League scout summed up the entire evening aptly while watching Luke Murton’s 22nd and final blast of the home run derby sail majestically over the left-field bleachers at Spillane Field: “Wow . . . wow.”
Wareham’s Murton (Georgia Tech), who smashed 10 homers in the first round and 12 more in the finals to topple defending champion Mitch Moreland (Bourne and Mississippi State), put on the most impressive display in a night full of them. In the game itself, a loaded East team defeated the West 3-2 behind a bevy of power arms and a three-run fourth inning that was highlighted by a solo homer by Orleans’ Dennis Raben (Miami).
Raben captured most outstanding player honors for the East team, while Falmouth’s Aaron Crow (Missouri) took home the honors for the West after getting the start and striking out the side in his one inning of work. Crow used a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 96 a number of times to whiff Cole Figueroa, Collin Cowgill and Yonder Alonso in order.
“I knew I was throwing an inning, I knew I was going to be pumped up for it, and I would throw today anyway if it was a normal game, so luckily we had it on the right schedule,” Crow said. “I was just pumped up, I just left it all on the field for that one inning like I’m a closer or something. I don’t really strike that many guys out, and to have three strikeouts in the all-star game was just amazing–something I never really expected to do.”
The arms were impressive for both sides, but the closers for each might have shown the best pure stuff. Falmouth righthander Luke Burnett (Louisiana Tech) ran his fastball up to 96 mph and showed a sharp mid-70s curveball in his scoreless inning for the West, while Orleans righty Ryan Perry (Arizona) worked in the 94-97 range and touched 98 to go along with a solid slider in the low 80s.
“I thought the pitching was outstanding the whole day–we only scored in one inning,” East manager Scott Pickler of Yarmouth-Dennis said. “It’s tough to get hits when the guy can go out there and blow for one inning. They know how many scouts are here, and that’s what they want to see. They want to see some velocity, and they got to see it today.”
The East rallied in the fourth against Falmouth lefty Christian Friedrich (Eastern Kentucky). Alonso started things off with a single, and Y-D shortstop Gordon Beckham (Georgia) doubled down the line to drive him in. After Beckham scored on a wild pitch, the lefthanded-hitting Raben turned on an 89 mph Friedrich fastball and deposited it just under the right-field scoreboard.
Raben had already exerted himself quite a bit in the home run derby. He tied Moreland with nine homers in the first round, his first shot sailing over the scoreboard and his fourth banging off the board. That forced a playoff between Raben and Moreland to see who would get to face Murton in the finals, after Murton launched 10 moonshots while using just four of his allotted 10 outs (Murton’s first homer cleared the left-field bleachers, and his second landed on top of the press box that sits atop the bleachers–his longest shot of the night, in his estimation).
Moreland cranked four more homers in his five allotted swing in the tiebreaker, while Raben’s first swing produced a fly ball that bounced high off the right-center field wall, and he lined out two pitches later.
“I had more in the tank against Moreland, but when I hit that first ball off the fence, that kind of took the wind out of my sails,” Raben said. “It’s tough, I had to hit four in a row just to tie him, and he had a good stroke goiing. But I had a lot left in the tank, and I saved it for the game and felt pretty good.”
Moreland went on to hit seven more homers in the finals, but Murton hit eight by using just five outs. The crowd chanted for Murton to keep going, so he swatted five more before using his final five outs.
“It was fun in front of the home crowd–I actually got to practice here the other day, trying to see where the ball was going to go,” Murton said. “It was just fun to step out here and get the chance to hit some home runs.”
It was a lot of fun to watch, too–for fans, scouts and media alike.
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