CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Delmarva first baseman Nick Delmonico has never been a stranger to the game of baseball. Delmonico's father, Rod, spent 18 years as the head coach at the University of Tennessee, giving the young Nick the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Major Leaguers Todd Helton, R.A. Dickey, and J.P Arencibia.
Despite his hardball pedigree, Delmonico felt some nerves early on in the 2012 South Atlantic League All Star Game on Tuesday night. The Orioles' 2011 6th round pick erased them quickly, though, going 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to take home MVP honors in leading the North Division to a 3-2 win over the South before 6,099 fans at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.
"My first at-bat, I was kind of a little tense and a little nervous, but after that, it just took care of itself," Delmonico said. "I took a deep breath and talked to my dad before the game. He helped calm me down a little bit."
The North had been held hitless by South starter Michael Foltynewicz (Astros) of Lexington and two relievers before Delmonico came to bat with one out in the fifth against the Rome's David Filak (Braves). Delmonico narrowly beat out an infield single to shortstop, and then raced home two batters later when Kannapolis catcher Kevan Smith (White Sox) rapped an RBI double to the left-field corner.
Delmonico's bat and speed sparked the North to a 2-0 lead in the seventh as the Knoxville native drilled a double to right field and scooted to third when Lexington second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. (Astros) mishandled the throw from the outfield. Hickory's Hanser Alberto (Rangers) ushered Delmonico home for the second time one pitch later, grounding a single through a drawn-in infield for the two-run cushion.
"I just wanted to have fun, get a pitch that I can drive and see if I can do something with it," Delmonico said. "It's a real honor just to be a part of the game. There's a lot of great players and a lot of great pitchers and to be here is a blessing. It's very humbling."
Kannapolis' Mark Haddow (White Sox) stroked an RBI single to push the North advantage to 3-0 in the eighth, but the host South would not go easily in the 9th vs. Hagerstown's Aaron Barrett (Nationals).
RiverDogs third baseman Tyler Austin (Yankees) laced a leadoff triple to start the frame and teammate Francisco Arcia delighted the home crowd even more two batters later by with an RBI single to center. The South scratched out another run on an RBI groundout by Home Run Derby champion Asheville's Harold Riggins (Rockies), but Barrett persevered to collect the save. He stranded the tying run on third with a strikeout of Savannah's Travis Taijeron (Mets) to end it.
Even with the loss, Austin was happy with the comeback bid and the All-Star experience in general.
"All of those guys came out here, enjoyed it and had a great time playing in Charleston," he said. "I took three poor at-bats into that last at-bat and needed to make something happen and it turned out good. We played good late but fell short tonight."
Lakewood hurler Colin Kleven (Phillies) recorded the win for the North, notching one strikeout while working a scoreless fourth. Filak took the loss.
Pitching was the story for much of the night. Foltynewicz was particularly impressive over the contest's opening two innings, continuing a terrific bounceback year by fanning four.
"It was a really good outing," said Foltynewicz, who struggled to a 4.97 ERA last year in the Sally League but entered the All-Star break with a 2.13 mark and a 9-1 record. "I was just going out to throw strikes and let the defense work. The curveball was working well, so was the changeup, and it worked out pretty well."
The first eight North pitchers to toe the rubber permitted only four hits while tossing shutout ball until the South rallied against Barrett in the ninth.
RiverDogs manager and South Division skipper Carlos Mendoza summed up the night as fireworks capped off the event on the banks of the Ashley River.
"As a player, you always want to be part of an All-Star Game," he said. "All the work that they put in day in and day out. They go through a lot of stuff throughout the year -- hot weather, long bus rides, a lot of stuff. Being part of the All-Star Game is pretty special."