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Gilmore rules the Carolina/Cal Derby

Winston-Salem third baseman bests Poythress in finale
June 22, 2010
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Winston-Salem third baseman Jon Gilmore won the Home Run Derby before the 15th annual Carolina/California League All-Star Game on Tuesday night, benefiting from a fortuitous shift in the winds at BB&T Coastal Field to defeat High Desert's Rich Poythress.

With winds blowing in from center field for most of the competition, hitters had trouble getting balls through the gusts to center and right. Shortly before Gilmore hit in the finals, the breeze began blowing from right field toward home plate, helping the right-handed hitter who had only three homers in 301 at-bats for the Dash in the first half.

"I went up against a lot of great guys. Fortunately, the wind started blowing in from the right, so I had a pretty good chance from the right side of the plate, trying to hit it out to left," Gilmore said.

Poythress, a first baseman who hit 14 homers and drove in a California League-high 65 runs in the first half, swung first in the finals. Poythress hit three longballs, twice clearing the left-field stands, before making the requisite five outs.

Gilmore stepped in and hit two home runs before sending a long fly to the top of the wall in left field that was ruled to have stayed in the ballpark instead of tying the contest. He then sent a ball deep into the stands in left to knot Poythress at three apiece and won the competition with a moon shot that cleared the seating area.

"We didn't really get any warmup swings before or anything," said Gilmore, chosen as a Carolina League reserve. "I was starting to lock in at the end there. It was fun."

Advancing after the first round were San Jose's Juan Perez (five) and Poythress (three) for the California League, and Frederick's Ronnie Welty (five) and Gilmore (three) for the Carolina League. Gilmore beat Winston-Salem's Justin Greene, 2-0, in a playoff round.

Poythress, the California League's starting designated hitter Tuesday night, hit four homers in the semifinals to Perez's three. Gilmore reached the finals by besting Welty, 2-1.

Thirtysomething and sizzling: In a game filled with high draft choices and future franchise cornerstones, San Jose Giants right-hander -- and California League starting pitcher -- Craig Westcott didn't feel out of place at all.

Westcott was picked in the 30th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants out of West Florida University.

The right-hander carried a 5-0 record and 1.55 ERA into the All-Star Game and was a natural choice for California League skipper Brian Harper, who manages San Jose. Harper told Westcott he was getting the nod last week when the Giants were in High Desert.

"I just got a chance. I was fortunate to get drafted and I just took it from there," said Westcott. "I'm just trying to do my best to work my way up."

Westcott had quite a rooting section from his hometown of Chalmette, La., at BB&T Coastal Stadium on Tuesday. His parents, girlfriend, sister, nephew and best friend made the trek to Myrtle Beach, where they got to visit with Westcott, partake in All-Star festivities and enjoy the beach.

Westcott doesn't mind working while some of his San Jose teammates are getting a breather.

"This last day or so has been a good enough break for me," he said. "Now I get to get back to work."

Long and short: Temperatures at BB&T Coastal Field hovered around 90 degrees during batting practice and the heat index was closer to 100 -- due to stifling humidity -- but the California League All-Stars were smartly attired in shorts for their pregame workouts.

The Carolina League squad, by contrast, was outfitted in full-length pants as Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler, the team's skipper, followed the rules set forth by his Major League affiliate, the Atlanta Braves.

Minor shuffling: Most editions of the annual Carolina/California League All-Star Game require fluidity right up until first pitch. In the Minor Leagues, injuries and callups can wreak havoc with All-Star selections and roster shuffling is an anticipated occupational hazard.

Tuesday's clash, however, required only three player substitutions. For the host Carolina League, Frederick right-handed reliever Jose Duran and Wilmington left-hander Chris Dwyer were selected to replace injured Winston-Salem right-hander Nevin Griffith and Salem right-hander Alex Wilson, who was called up to Double-A Portland. The California League needed to replace only Rancho Cucamonga right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who was promoted to Double-A Arkansas. Lake Elsinore right-hander Anthony Bass took Chatwood's roster spot.

2011 and beyond: Next year's California/Carolina League All-Star Game will be hosted by the Modesto Nuts. The 2012 game will likely go to Winston-Salem, which was in line to host this year's contest before delays at the Dash's new BB&T Ballpark postponed its opening until April.

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to