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North holds on for All-Star victory07/01/2009 11:51 PM ET
By Todd Traub / Special to MLB.com
FRISCO, Texas - Corey Smith has had some good times at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Take Wednesday's Texas League All-Star Game, for example.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals third baseman went 2-for-3, scored the game's first run and was named MVP as the North Division held on for a 2-1 victory over the South before a crowd of 10,314.
"I was happy about it, of course," said Smith. "Obviously, you want to play to the best of your ability. I got a couple hits early and played solid defense during the course of the game. We were fortunate enough to get the win and then I got the MVP, which is a bonus."
Smith was a member of the Los Angeles Angels organization last year when the Arkansas Travelers beat the Frisco RoughRiders to win the Texas League championship and got to party in the visitors' clubhouse at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
On Wednesday, before the largest All-Star crowd since 2005 in Frisco, Smith led off the second inning with a single off Jason Fernandez of the Midland RockHounds. The North loaded the bases and Smith trotted home when Fernandez plunked Home Run Derby winner Mark Trumbo of the Travelers with a 2-1 pitch.
The North padded its lead in the eighth on an RBI single by Kurt Mertins of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. But the South answered in the bottom of the inning, when Josh Horton doubled home RockHounds teammate Josh Donaldson.
But Arkansas reliever Bobby Cassevah stranded two runners in scoring position by striking out Midland's Corey Brown and retiring Eric Sogard of the San Antonio Missions on a grounder to second base.
In the ninth, Andrew Johnston of the Tulsa Drillers fanned RockHounds slugger Chris Cooper and got Donaldson to ground to Smith to end the game and pick up the save.
Tyler Hearne of the Springfield Cardinals started for the North and was credited with the win after pitching two scoreless innings.
"When everyone talks about pitching and defense, that's one of the games," said Arkansas' Bobby Magallanes, who managed the North.
The reserves provided the difference. Travelers outfielder Nate Sutton grounded into a fielder's choice in the eighth, stole second and scored the key insurance run on Mertins' base hit off Midland's Mike Benacka.
"That was the key to that ballgame." Magallanes said.
As the only player with more than one hit, Smith was named MVP and was presented with his award by league president Tom Kayser.
Things didn't work out after last season for Smith, a former first-round Draft pick of the Cleveland Indians. After the Angels released him, he signed with the Kansas City Royals and was close to breaking Spring Training with Triple-A Omaha. But the Royals signed Travis Metcalf, relegating Smith to the Texas League.
"I've got to keep playing," said Smith, who also had a leadoff double in the fourth. "As long as I have a uniform on, I've got a chance. My goal ultimately is not to play at Triple-A anyway; I want to play in the big leagues."
Smith entered the All-Star break hitting .252 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs.
"Corey, he's having a good year. This guy's a good player, good hitter," said Magallanes, who managed Smith during Arkansas' championship run last year. "He was solid today, he came up big. It brought back memories. It was like we never lost a beat."
The game was expected to be a showcase for the South's power, which boasted Texas League home run leader Collin DeLome and RBI leader Drew Locke, both of the Corpus Christi Hooks. Carter is tops in runs scored and extra-base hits.
But the North countered with a pitching staff anchored by Hearne (8-1, 2.85 ERA), the league wins leader, and Johnston, who has a TL-best 22 saves.
Locke was held to a single in four at-bats, while Cassevah got DeLome to strike out on a sinker with one out and two on in the eighth.
"Very good game and the pitching kind of dominated both sides," said South manager Mike Micucci of the Frisco RoughRiders. "They had a two-out single that scored a run and we hit a guy with the bases loaded and that was their two runs. They had a couple other opportunities to maybe get a big hit and the pitching came through.
"We had an opportunity in that one inning to get something done and their pitching came through. Just a very good, all-around, well-played game."
Carter provided a moment of suspense with one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Johnston got him swinging with a slider.
"It's just two good players coming after each other," said Johnston, who watched Carter slug 10 homers in the pregame Derby. "I gave him my best and I knew he was going to give me his best."
Trumbo, a late addition to the North roster, won the Derby by overtaking Carter in the final round. Carter hit 10 in the first round to pass Trumbo, who opened with seven. But Carter went 0-for-5 in the second round and Trumbo hit four, sending his decisive 11th over the left-field wall with one out to spare.
"I've known Chris for a long time," Trumbo said. "He has tremendous power. I was surprised he didn't put any up in that last round."
It was Trumbo's first home run derby since he was a high school junior.
"I haven't hit in one of these in a long time, so it was real fun for me," said Trumbo, who entered the night with seven homers after being among the Minor League leaders with 32 last season.
"I'm much happier with what I've done in the games," Trumbo said. "This is nice, but of late things have been coming around a little better. I've worked hard all year. I had a slow start, but it seems to be coming around a little more."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.