EVERETT, Wash. -- With a fourth-inning home run and a leadoff single in a dramatic ninth inning, Salem-Keizer third baseman Sam Eberle sparked the South Division to an 8-7 come-from-behind win over the North at the 2013 Northwest League All-Star Game.
A crowd of 3,818 at Everett Memorial Stadium cheered the return of the All-Star Game, which had not been played in the Northwest League since 2004.
"They really treated us first-class, like big leaguers," Eberle said. "I really appreciate all of it. It's a great honor to be here with all these players and all these coaches who are the best in the league. It's a great honor."
It also was also a great night for Salem-Keizer's All-Star representatives. Not only did Eberle score three runs and take the MiLB.com Top Star Award, Volcanoes right-hander Raymundo Montero picked up the win, right fielder Tyler Hollick drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly and shortstop Jeremy Sy walked and scored a run.
James Pugliese recorded two outs in the ninth and Boise Hawks teammate Tyler Bremer fanned Everett's Jack Reinheimer to record the save and tag AquaSox right-hander Jose Valdivia with the loss.
The North jumped out to an early lead when Vancouver Canadians first baseman L.B. Dantzler connected for a three-run homer off Salem-Keizer's Andrew Leenhouts in the bottom of the first.
"Runners on second and third, I was just trying to get the ball up in the air, get a sac fly," Dantzler said. "He got to 2-0 and he had thrown me two fastballs, so I figured he was going to go back to it. And I got a pitch over the plate and was able to get it over that wall."
The South came right back with three runs in the second as Hawks catcher Lance Rymel walked, Eberle reached on an error and Eugene Emeralds center fielder Ronnie Richardson delivered an RBI double. Eberle scored on a sac fly by Hillsboro's Yogey Perez-Ramos and Richardson trotted home on a groundout by Hollick to tie it at 3-3.
The North quickly regained the lead as Everett's Justin Seager singled and Vancouver's Justin Atkinson homered to make it 5-3. The host team extended its lead in the third on an RBI groundout by Michael Tauchman and a run-scoring single by Tri-City teammate Alec Mehrten. Meanwhile, Spokane's David Ledbetter needed only eight pitches to turn in the game's first 1-2-3 inning.
The South chipped away, getting a solo shot from Eberle in the fourth and an RBI single from Boise's Jacob Rogers in the fifth that plated Sy. After that, both bullpens settled things down as Eugene's Jimmy Brasoban, Hillsboro's Daniel Gibson, Salem-Keizer's Jake Smith, Hillsboro's Will Locante and Montero each pitched a scoreless frame for the South. Vancouver's Kyle Anderson, Spokane's Eric Brooks, Everett's Aaron Brooks and Tri-City's Trent Daniel combined for three shutout innings for the North.
Eberle, however, had other ideas as the South entered the ninth trailing, 7-5.
"We were just really relaxed here in the dugout," he said while holding the Top Star bat. "We weren't really pressing too much. We were having fun and luckily, we came through there at the end. I thought the North put up a great fight."
Eberle singled off Valdivia, took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on an error by Dantzler and scored on a single by Perez-Ramos.
"It's tough we didn't win," said Dantzler, who couldn't come up with a ball off Richardson's bat. "Tough play there. I thought I could get to that ball in the air and it short-hopped me a little bit and ended up costing us the game. That's just the way baseball is."
With Richardson at third, Perez-Ramos stole second. Hollick followed with a sacrifice fly to produce the tying run and Eugene's Hunter Renfroe singled home Perez-Ramos with the go-ahead tally run on a hard shot to Tri-City left fielder Sean Dwyer, who won the Home Run Derby earlier in the day.
"It's been a great experience all the way around," Eberle said. "It makes me really look forward to the second half, getting back to work."