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North wins FSL All-Star pitchers' duel

Tigers' Stewart reaches three times, scores lone run, named MVP
June 18, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One might expect Lakeland's Christin Stewart, the Florida State League's home run leader, to have captured All-Star MVP honors with a showcase of power.

Stewart walked away with the MVP award on Saturday night, but he left the display of dominance to his North Division teammates on the mound.

The Tigers' third-ranked prospect scored the lone run in the North's 1-0 triumph, but it was the combined effort of his squad's 11 pitchers who tossed a rare shutout in the Florida State League All-Star Game.

"Both pitchers -- on our side and theirs -- are really good," said Stewart, who went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. "We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game and needed to get that timely hit and get in scoring position for the guy behind you."

Flying Tigers teammate Adam Ravenelle picked up the win after striking out two in a hitless fifth inning. A.J. Ladwig, Elniery Garcia, Tim Mayza, Adonys Cardona, Alexis Rivero, Jimmy Herget and Jacob Ehret preserved the shutout. All but Rivero and Ehret recorded strikeouts.

"The guys really went out there and threw the ball well," said North manager Eli Marrero of the Daytona Tortugas. "They attacked the zone, they made the guys put the ball in play. The arms that came out there, it was 94, 95, 98, 100 [mph]. It's tough to hit. It's not easy pitching to hit."

Despite leading the league with 16 homers, it was Stewart's speed -- not power -- that built the North's lone run. He led off the fifth with a double to center field, just beating the tag by Charlotte Stone Crabs second baseman Riley Unroe.

"I was just going to go for it," Stewart said. "It was kind of closer than I thought it would be. I kind of wanted to go for that scoring position because I know it was going to be a close game."

Stewart showed off his quickness again two betters later when Brevard County Manatees catcher Dustin Houle singled to right. Stewart beat another tag, this one by Bradenton Marauders backstop Taylor Gushue.

"I was just looking to hit something hard and I got a pitch to do it with," Houle said. "I managed to score Stewart from second base and we won the game."

"Stewart had a nice game. I'm really happy he won MVP," Marrero said. "It's something he can carry for a long time."

Fort Myers' Yorman Landa, who reached 102 mph on the stadium radar gun, took the loss.

Phillies No. 15 prospect Tom Eshelman of the Clearwater Threshers got the start for the North and fanned one and walked one in the first.

"I knew coming in here we were going to be pretty good arms-wise, but I didn't think we'd be that good," Eshelman said. "It was definitely fun to be a part of and humbling since this was my first All-Star bid."

The South's best chance to break through came in the seven inning against Mayza. Jupiter's Dexter Kjerstad drew a leadoff walk and Fort Myers' Edgar Corcino singled to right, giving the South its third hit of the game. But Unroe lined into a double play, with Dunedin's Emilio Guerrero snagging his liner along the third base line and doubling Corcino off first.

"When we had runners on first and third with one out, you've got a good chance there to tie it up, but that's the way the game goes sometimes," Kjerstad said. "Whenever you take the best guys from each division and put them against each other, it's going to be a low-scoring game. I didn't expect it to be a 1-0 and take 2 1/2 hours."

South manager Michael Johns of the Stone Crabs was also surprised.

"Honestly, I thought there would be more runs than one," he said. "We were able to get out of some situations where it looked like they were going to tack on some runs. But I thought the game was pretty indicative of the league. It's a pitching-dominant league. It usually is. And it seems like this year, it really is."

Kjerstad gave the South a little life with a single in the ninth, but Corcino grounded out to end the game.

The North set the tone on the first pitch of the night as Yankees top prospect Jorge Mateo beat out an infield single, then stole second on the next offering by South starter Felix Jorge. He took third on a groundout by Clearwater's Mitch Walding but was stranded.

"I always like my leadoff hitter to set the example, right off the get-go," Marrero said. "Be ready to hit, be ready to get on base, be ready to steal the bag. Show the team we're ready to play. That's what he did. I love that."

Erin Brown is a contributor to Mercedes Espina contributed to this report.