RICHMOND–In a pitcher-dominated contest that saw only five combined hits, the North defeated the South, 2-1, in the annual all-star game of the Triple Crown Sports U.S. Baseball Championships.
The event is a highlight in the midst of a tournament that brings together 72 teams from all over the East Coast at the 16-and-under, 17-and-under and 18-and-under age groups. The all-star game features the best players selected from the 18-and-under event.
Pitching was the story of the night for the both teams, as 14 pitchers were given one inning apiece to show off their stuff. The more than 30 hitters on each team were cycled through in consecutive order, with most hitters taking just one plate appearance, resulting in very few comfortable at-bats.
Righthander Nathan Ocker of the Capital Region Warriors started the game for the South, working a scoreless frame, with no hits and two walks. Ocker flashed good command of his fastball, working 84-86 mph, and touched 87 multiple times. For the North, Christian Suk of the New Jersey Heat took the ball to start the game, matching Ocker with no hits and one strikeout. Suk pounded the zone with a low 80s fastball and showed good command of a big-breaking curveball.
It was Billy Phillips of the South, though, that stole the show. The tall lefthander from Saint Mark's High in Wilmington, Del., shut down the North in impressive fashion, striking out all three hitters he faced. Phillips worked an 84-86 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, showing good run on the outside half. Phillips, a rising junior, also flashed a low 70s curveball with good depth and hard downward action. After working as a starter in high school, Philips said he tried to maintain a similar mentality and pregame ritual before coming out of the bullpen.
"I just prepared for it like I would any other game," he said. "I knew I would only get one inning, but I wanted to do the same thing, just stay in the same routine."
For many of the high school players that were selected for the event, playing in front of a packed stadium and the cameras of a CBS Sports Network broadcast provided an extra dose of nerves. Triple Crown Sports officials gathered the teams behind home plate before the game to try to calm them. Even with that, though, Phillips admitted he had a little anxiety.
"I was of course nervous, but I was more excited than nervous," Phillips said. "Last night was a struggle sleeping, I was really excited."
As an added bonus for fans, Triple Crown held the semifinals and finals of its 17 and under home run derby between innings of the game. Hitters were given five outs or eight pitches to put as many balls as possible out of Glen Allen Stadium. Six hitters took turns during the second and third innings. In the final round, which took place in the middle of the fifth inning, Tyler Zuppa of the New Jersey Nationals provided the lone home run and walked off as the contest's winner.