PORTLAND, Maine -- Most every All-Star Game has the fan favorite Home Run Derby, but not too many have one at the end, to decide the winner.
That's exactly what happened at the Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday night at Hadlock Field as the Eastern Division defeated the West on a sudden-death homer from Reading's Brian Pointer.
"That was just pretty awesome," a bewildered Pointer said moments after the unorthodox ending. "Just to see it go out, ending this whole thing with a little bit of a saga at the end, I'm pretty much speechless right now. I'm just happy that we won it and happy to walk it off."
As the All-Star Game completed nine innings with the score tied at 4-4, the public address announcer let it be known there would be no extra innings, that the game would be decided with a Home Run Derby shootout.
The crowd erupted and the two managers went about picking their three participants in the first-ever tiebreaker Home Run Derby in the Eastern League All-Star history.
As the game entered the final innings, the tension mounted and as word reached the benches, players clamored to be one of the participants in the one-swing derby.
"Somebody mentioned it in the eighth inning," said Reading's Brock Stassi who went without a homer in the pregame derby. "I said I want redemption for the goose egg I put up. I was pumped that [manager] Billy [McMillon] put me back out there to try and end it."
"We were all scratching and clawing to get in there," Pointer added. "We were all wanting to hit."
Having only one whack each time up, the players found it tough to get into a groove and carried the derby into the fourth round before Pointer deposited his offering five rows into the right field pavilion.
"It was a lot of fun, exciting," Stassi said. "One swing was kind of tough, but it added to the excitement. I was happy to see Pointer end it."
"That was crazy," Pointer added. "This was my first All-Star Game and to have a home run derby to walk it off, it's pretty unusual and pretty cool."
The East jumped out to an early 1-0 lead as Portland's Marco Hernandez led off the bottom of the first with a single, took third on a base hit by Binghamton's Josh Rodriguez and scored on a double play.
The home team tacked on three in the second on a sacrifice fly by Trenton's Jake Cave and a two-run blast by Hernandez that landed in the first row of the U.S. Cellular Pavilion seats in right field.
"You can do that in a game like this," Hernandez said of his bat flip. "During the season, that's not me; here, I tried to enjoy it. I just hit the ball."
The 22-year-old shortstop was named All-Star MVP before the home fans after going 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
The West got on the board in third on an RBI groundout by Richmond's Rando Moreno, but New Hampshire's Dwight Smith Jr. came up with the defensive gem of the game in the sixth. He made a sliding catch on a liner to left by Richmond's Ricky Oropesa, popped up and fired to second base to double up Altoona's Josh Bell.
The West struck for three runs in the seventh against New Britain reliever Austin House. Three straight hits started the inning, with Erie's Wynton Bernard tripling home Harrisburg's Pedro Severino.
Akron's Anthony Gallas promptly singled home Bernard to cut the deficit to 4-3 and House issued three straight walks, including one to Bell with the bases loaded that forced in the tying run.