HAMPTON, Va.—Nick Christopher thought the game was over.
Judging by the handshakes and celebrations at each dugout, everyone else did, too.
Christopher’s East team had just tied the West team 2-2 in Monday’s Coastal Plain League All-Star game in the bottom of the ninth, but an inning-ended double play ended the rally and ended the game in a tie—at least, as far as the coaches and players were concerned.
But they were wrong. An announcement came over the War Memorial Stadium PA system that the game would not end in a tie, that an extra inning would be played, and suddenly, the bewildered East and West teams were forced into action.
Scott Burkett, the East team’s starting catcher, warmed in the bullpen and took the mound to deliver a scoreless top of the 10th. West’s Derrick Smith, who had already pitched the eighth inning and had left the game, re-entered the game to pitch the bottom of the 10th.
It was anything but a conventional ending, but the game did, in fact, end thanks to a booming RBI single by Christopher in the bottom of the 10th that split the gap in left-center field and sent the winning run home.
“I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball, drive it somewhere hard,” said Christopher, a Virginia State outfielder. “(Smith) came down and in, and I got the bat head on it and sent it out to left center.
“It’s a really an honor to be one of the guys selected, and to actually help our team win is really great for me.”
Offense didn’t come that easily for most of the night. Catawba’s John Tuttle (5-0, 0.50) and East Carolina’s Tyler Bolton (3-0, 0.60) started for West and East, respectively, and each delivered two scoreless frames to begin the night before giving way to equally deep pitching staffs.
West managed to snatch a lead in the fourth on an RBI single by North Greenville’s Allen Staton, while the first East run was a product of hustle more than muscle—Coffeyville C.C.’s Chase Rader began the sixth inning with a walk, stole second and advanced on two groundouts to tie the game at 1-1.
Five West pitchers combined to hold the East team hitless until one out in the seventh when Texas Tech’s Brian Celsi, a teammate of Rader’s with the Fayetteville SwampDogs, poked a grounder up the middle in his first at-bat of the game. Celsi would come through again in the ninth, down 2-1, with a game-tying double down the left-field line.
For a moment, Celsi’s game-tying knock looked as though it would be the game’s last as both team’s prepared to settle for a tie.
But the game’s continuation gave Christopher the chance to be a hero, and he said he was glad for the opportunity to end it the right way.
“It’s more laid-back because it is an all-star game, but at the same time, if you’re a baseball player playing at this level, you’re always competitive,” Christopher said. “So any time you go on the field, you still want to win. I’m just glad we could all come out here and have a good game.”