BOSTON—Soggy weather only put a slight damper on the Cape Cod League all-star game, which made a successful return to Fenway Park on Thursday after a 22-year absence. More than 13,000 fans packed most of the infield seating bowl for the league’s home run hitting contest and all-star game, which the West team won 3-0 in a game shortened to four and a half innings by rain. Earlier, Harwich’s Connor Powers (Mississippi State) won the home run hitting contest.
It was foggy and drizzly for most of the evening, and the rain picked up as the game wore on, but the crowd remained surprisingly large and lively. Given the conditions, it was a huge victory for the Cape to get in as many festivities as it did—without the crowd dwindling—before the increasing rain made continuing impossible.
“Credit the grounds crew for the Red Sox and how cordial the whole organization was in trying to allow the Cape League to get infield in, batting practice, the home run hitting contest and a few innings,” said West head coach Mike Roberts (Cotuit). “I was amazed, I really was. I thought they would shut it off much earlier. I think the real thank yous tonight go to the Red Sox. What I’m amazed by is how many New Englanders came out and sat in the stuff tonight.”
The fans and dozens of scouts were treated to strong pitching and a two-hit, two-RBI day by Cotuit third baseman Zack Cox (Arkansas), who was named the game’s offensive MVP for the victorious West squad.
“All of us want to be big leaguers and all of us believe we can be big leaguers, but you never know when you’re goign to get this opportunity and I just wanted to make the most of it,” Cox said. “It was a great experience.”
Cox got the West on the board in the first inning, driving a Rob Rasmussen (UCLA) fastball over center fielder Gary Brown’s head to drive in Todd Cunningham (Jacksonville State). Then, in the second, Cox hit a Kyle Blair (San Diego) two-seamer into left field for an RBI single. Several scouts later commented that Cox was the most impressive hitter in the game.
“What you saw tonight is Zack Cox: Most of his hits are up the middle or the other way,” said Roberts, who coaches Cox at Cotuit. “If he has one thing he’d like to do better down the road it’s on certain pitches he’d like to turn on them better. But he’s what I’d call a country Enos Slaughter. He’s a country slasher, and he understands hitting.”
The other big story Thursday—besides Cox and the wet weather—was the impressive display of power arms. Wareham righthander Brandon Workman (Texas) also drew praise from scouts for his strong outing, striking out two in a perfect first for the West. Workman’s fastball sat at 94-95, and he struck out Austin Wates (Virginia Tech) on a nasty 75 mph curveball in the dirt.
Wareham righty Jack Armstrong (Vanderbilt) followed with a scoreless second, sitting at 95-96 and mixing in a solid 83 mph changeup and an 81 mph curveball. Wareham lefty Eric Pfisterer (Duke) used his 78 mph curveball to strike out two in the third, and Hyannis righty Dallas Gallant (Sam Houston State) ran his fastball up to 93 and showed two power breaking balls in a 1-2-3 fourth. The West’s last pitcher of the day was Bourne righty Stephen Harrold (UNC Wilmington), who sat at 90-92 and showed a good low-80s slider in the fifth.
“I’m disappointed that some of the other young men did not get to throw, but I did think the guys who were out there showed very good arms tonight,” Roberts said.
We want to work with Zack on improving his defensive skills so that he can become a major league third baseman, but he’s a wonderful young man and nobody deserved MVP as much as Zack Cox.
The East, meanwhile, mustered just one hit—an infield single by Blake Kelso (Houston) in the third—and did not impress as much on the mound, with a notable exception. Yarmouth-Dennis righthander Chris Sale (Florida Gulf Coast) might have been the most impressive pitcher in the game for either team. He was named the game’s pitching MVP for needing just six pitches (five for strikes) to breeze through a perfect third. Sale induced two ground balls and struck out Cody Stanley (UNCW) on three pitches, the last of which was a 95 mph fastball. Sale worked in the 93-95 range from a three-quarters slot and threw one very good slider at 80 mph.
Other than that, the highlights were minimal for the East team, but that did not diminish the experience for the players on the losing team.
“To play in a venue like this was tremendous for these kids,” said East head coach Steve Englert (Harwich). “They were all fired up as soon as they walked in. Just to be in this atmosphere is awesome.”