Smith’s Blast Lifts The West In MWL All-Star Game

There was drama aplenty in Tuesday night’s Midwest League All-Star Game at Dow Diamond in Midland, Mich., home of the Great Lakes Loons, as the Western Division pulled out a thrilling 5-4, 10-inning win over the East.

The West struck first, scoring two runs in the top of the first on East starter Steven Johnson, a Great Lakes righthander. Johnson retired the first two hitters to start the game before giving up a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases for Kane County’s Corey Brown (Athletics). Brown lined a two-run single to right to put the West on top before Johnson retired Wisconsin’s Edilio Colina (Mariners) to end the inning.

West starter Craig Italiano, who leads the minor leagues with a 1.09 ERA, had a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, retiring Evan Frey (Diamondbacks), Pete Kozma (Cardinals), and Andrew Lambo (Dodgers) all on fly balls.

The score stayed put at 2-0 until the bottom of the third, when the East rallied for three runs against Beloit righthander David Bromberg (Twins), who couldn’t finish the inning before he was pulled after giving a two-out RBI single to Quad Cities’ Charles Kingrey (Cardinals) that put the East ahead 3-2. Bromberg was replaced by Cedar Rapids lefthander Trevor Reckling (Angels), a late addition to the team when teammate Michael Anton was promoted less than a week before the All-Star Game. Reckling got South Bend’s Sean Coughlin (Diamondbacks) to pop out to end the third.

The West responded immediately, tying the game in the top of the fourth after Clinton’s Jonathan Greene (Rangers) led off with a double and later came in on an RBI groundout by Burlington’s Adrian Ortiz (Royals). The East put two men on base with two outs in the bottom of the inning against Reckling, but the West called in Clinton’s Neftali Feliz, (Rangers) one of the league’s premier pitching prospects, to come in and put out the fire. Feliz did the job, getting Kozma to hit a grounder back to the mound to end the threat.

Each team scored a run in the fifth, and the score would remain knotted at 4-4 through the remainder of regulation. The East put runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth against big Loek Van Mil (Twins), but the 7-foot-1 Dutchman got Lansing’s Justin Jackson (Blue Jays) to fly out to right.

The East put another two men on base with two out in the seventh, but again it was one of the Lansing prospects who was unable to come through. This time it was John Tolisano who popped out against Burlington’s Joe Augustine (Royals) to end the inning.

It was frustrating evening for the East, which left 12 men on base in all, none more painful than when the squad put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth. However, Peoria righthander Blake Parker (Cubs) came out of the bullpen and struck out Dayton’s Denis Phipps (Reds) and got Great Lakes’ Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) to pop out as the East lost its best and last threat of the night.

After missing a chance to put the game away, the East was punished immediately in the top of the tenth when Clinton’s Tim Smith (Rangers), who has only two home runs all season, led off the inning with a home run to right off Great Lakes righthander Miguel Ramirez. The blast earned Smith MVP honors.

Parker, who easily could’ve been MVP himself, came back out for the bottom of the tenth and struck out the side to put the finishing touches on a dramatic victory for the West.