The West rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning, but the East won the 2013 Midwest League All-Star Game in Dayton, Ohio 6-5 on a walk-off single by Dalton Pompey.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson was in charge of the West division team that wound up on the short end of the score, but he still enjoyed the experience. "It was a great night. It was a pleasure to be a part of it," Erickson said. "We jumped on them early. Our starting nine is a pretty talented group. We got a bunch of hits early."
The West grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a double by Dan Vogelbach of Kane County and a sacrifice fly by Jorge Polanco of Cedar Rapids.
The West carried that lead to the bottom of the fifth. That's when Erickson turned to one of his own pitchers in Damien Magnifico.
"I was just trying to go out there and light up the radar gun," said Magnifico. "Just let it loose and have fun with it. Of course, I face Tyler Ogle, who I know from OU, first batter. I was just out there trying to throw fastballs to him."
Magnifico did a little more than throw fastballs. "I think he grew up a little bit over the course of the first half because he said exactly that. He was going to go out there and let it fly and he actually pitched," noted Erickson. "He didn't get ahead. He was down 2-1. He threw a nice 2-1 slider to get back to even. Then, he broke a bat."
That broken bat allowed Magnifico to retire his former Oklahoma teammate on a grounder to third.
Gustavo Pierre was next and he sent a grounder that deflected off Magnifico's leg and turned into a 1-4-3 putout. Magnifico came out of the game after that batter, but it was all part of the plan. The big right-hander laughed it off after the game.
"It just grazed my shin. It wasn't nothing bad," he said. "It felt kind of cool having a kick save."
The East would rally after Magnifico left the game. A sharp grounder to second should have been the third out to get Jordan Jankowski and the West out of the frame, but an error kept the inning alive.
The next two batters singled, with the second single knocking in the first run of the game for the East. A walk loaded the bases. Then, Devon Travis, the West Michigan outfielder who happens to be leading the Midwest League, in hitting cracked a bases-clearing triple to put the East up 4-2.
"I guess it doesn't matter what type of game you're playing," said Erickson. "The error is going to come back and hurt you."
The East added a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 5-2 lead.
The West was still down by that score heading to the top of the ninth. Erickson had a feeling his squad would make a comeback. "I told the third base umpire, 'You watch. We're going to load the bases here and make it interesting.' And sure enough we load the bases and we get a couple of big knocks."
The first three batters reached on a walk to Tyler Marlette, an infield single by Breyvic Valera, and a walk to Jabari Henry. Niko Goodrum got the West to within a run with a two-run single. Henry scored the tying run later in the inning on a wild pitch.
"We couldn't get that go ahead run in there," Erickson noted. "Then, they come back and get that run there."
That run came on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Had Pompey not driven in the winning run, the game would have ended in a tie after nine innings as both teams were out of pitching.
The loss, did not dampen Erickson's enthusiasm. "Just a great night for everyone involved," he stated.
The 8,746 on hand at Fifth Third Field would agree.
MAGNIFICO LOOKS AHEAD:
Magnifico is looking forward to the second half. "The first half I was learning a routine," he stated after the game. "Now, I got my routine down so the second half should be more fun for me just going out and pitching instead of worrying to do certain stuff. I'm just going to go out there and pitch."
When asked which players stood out to him on Tuesday night, Erickson went right to the top, as in Carlos Correa of Quad Cities, the top pick in the 2012 draft.
"We got to play him a couple of times in the first half and he made some really nice plays," said Erickson. "Today, just watching him through batting practice and his overall demeanor; the character of the kid matches his talent level. He's going to be something special."
As Erickson finished his thoughts on Correa, he looked out at the postgame fireworks display and noticed Wisconsin native and Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder Adam Brett Walker standing by the rail enjoying the show. All Erickson said was, 'That kid….Wow!"
He also reflected on the play of Brandon Drury, the third baseman for the South Bend Silver Hawks. Drury was involved in two pivotal plays in the game.
"Drury had the double in the ninth to set up their rally," said Erickson. "Plus, he made the play of the game when he robbed [Dario] Pizzano of a hit to get an out at the plate when we were trying to push for more runs early in the game."
That game saving play came in the top of the sixth inning as the West tried to rally back after falling behind in the bottom of the fifth. The West had the bases loaded with one out and Pizzano was at the plate. Drury was playing even with the bag at third. He snared a wicked one hopper with a lunge to his left and threw to the plate for a force out. The West did not cash in for any runs in the sixth.
When asked if there was anything else he wanted to say about the All-Star experience, Erickson responded with, "Let's enjoy the fireworks."
And get ready for the second half.