COMSTOCK PARK, MI - History was very nearly made at the 50th annual Midwest League All-Star Classic on Tuesday night at Fifth Third Ballpark.
The Western Division came five outs away from throwing the first no-hitter in affiliated professional baseball All-Star game history, ultimately settling for a two-hit shutout in a resounding 7-0 victory over the Eastern Division. The game was hosted by the West Michigan Whitecaps in front of 7,046 fans.
Boog Powell of the Beloit Snappers was named the Star of Stars, leading the Western Division's offensive attack with a 1-for-3 night that included a game-breaking two-run double in the sixth inning, three runs scored, two RBI, two walks and two stolen bases - including a swipe of home for what turned out to be the game-winning run.
But the story of the night was the 11 members of the Western Division pitching staff that combined on a dominant two-hit shutout.
Kyle Finnegan worked the first inning and was rewarded with the win, leading a charge of seven consecutive pitchers that each threw a hitless full inning to start the ballgame.
The West had a comfortable 7-0 lead and both benches were nearly emptied of reserve position players by the time the bottom of the eighth inning rolled around.
The last position player to get into the game was South Bend's Marty Herum, who pinch-hit with one out in the bottom of the eighth. He promptly took the first pitch he saw from Peoria's Chris Perry and rolled a groundball single through the right side to break up the no-hit bid. His Silver Hawks' teammate, Daniel Palka, added an infield single in the ninth to account for the Eastern Division's only other hit.
Meanwhile, the Western Division All-Stars reached the scoreboard in the top of the first inning and never looked back.
Powell led off the ballgame with a walk and later stood at third base with men at the corners and two outs. Quad Cities' Brett Phillips proceeded to steal second and Powell broke for home as soon as he saw the throw leave the catcher's hand, stealing home to complete the double steal and grab a 1-0 lead.
The lead was 3-0 when the Western Division reserves joined the party during a four-run outburst in the top of the sixth.
The inning featured six pinch-hit plate appearances, but it was Powell - one of just two Western Division All-Stars that played all nine innings - who yanked a two-run double down the right field line to blow the game open. Two batters later, Burlington's Chad Hinshaw stepped in as a pinch-hitter and crushed the first pitch he saw for a two-run homer to left field as the stars from the West seized a commanding 7-0 advantage.
West Michigan's Jonathon Crawford suffered the loss. After nearly working out of a bases-loaded jam with nobody out in the first inning, the steal of home plate led to one run allowed on one hit in his only inning of work. His Whitecaps' teammate Buck Farmer threw a scoreless fifth inning while outfielder Wynton Bernard was 0-for-3 with a walk and second baseman Javier Betancourt was 0-for-2.
The second half of the West Michigan Whitecaps' 2014 season begins on Thursday night with a 7:00 p.m. first pitch at Fifth Third Ballpark against the Fort Wayne TinCaps. All-Star RHP Chad Green (1-2, 3.17) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan on an Altogas Thrifty Thursday that will also feature a Free Beer and Hot Wings bobblehead doll giveaway. Season, group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps' front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
Click here to view the box score.