OGDEN, Utah -- Players asserted all afternoon Tuesday that the ball flies in Utah, then set out to prove themselves correct in an offensive battle that saw the Northwest League win its second straight All-Star Game over the Pioneer League, 11-5.
Xavier Turner of the Spokane Indians went 3-for-3 with a homer and a pair of runs scored to lead the Northwest League and earn the MiLB.com Top Star Award in front of 5,339 at Lindquist Field.
"It was an amazing experience and opportunity," said Turner, holding the trophy, bat and glove he was awarded. "My teammates came out here and played an amazing game."
The Northwest League got on the board first when the Rangers prospect belted a solo shot off Great Falls' Aron McRee in the third inning. Two outs later, Salem-Keizer's Ashford Fulmer doubled and scored on a base hit by Boise's Garrett Hampson, who stole second and came home when Everett's Eric Filia singled.
"Stayed selective, got a pitch to hit and put a good swing on a good pitch," said Turner, who has two homers in 106 at-bats during the regular season.
The Pioneer League came roaring back in the bottom of the frame when Grand Junction's Jonathan Piron led off with a double and stole third. Rockies teammate Jose Gomez hit a comebacker to Vancouver's Patrick Murphy who fielded the ball cleanly and looked Piron back to third before sailing his throw over first baseman Jacob Bosiokovic's head, allowing Piron to score.
Ogden's D.J. Peters followed by crushing a 440-hit two-run homer to center field with an exit velocity of 106 mph. Back-to-back singles by Orem's Jahmai Jones and Idaho Falls' Meibrys Viloria set the stage for Great Falls' Aaron Schnurbusch, who grounded into a double play that scored Jones and gave the hosts a 4-3 lead.
The monster blast run helped Peters to earn the Pioneer League's Top Star Award.
"My whole goal today was to come out here and have fun," the Dodgers prospect said. "You know, get a hit or two. I got a hit today, which at the moment was a big hit. So I'm just very grateful and very blessed to be out here with all these great ballplayers and show the Pioneer League, show what we're all about here."
The Northwest League responded with a seven-run fourth. Eugene's Chris Pieters led off with a double off Ogden's Roberth Fernandez and moved to third on Turner's single. Both scored on a triple by Vancouver's Cavan Biggio, who came home on Spokane catcher Seth Spivey's groundout. Filia's second RBI single of the night chased Fernandez (0-1) and gave the Northwest League a 7-4 cushion.
"A lot of guys here can just swing it," Turner said. "All these great players. It was fun to come out here and put up  hits and all those runs."
The visitors weren't finished. Filia scored on a base hit by Boise's Jacob Bosiokovic and Salem-Keizer's Gio Brusa, who won Home Run Derby before the game, hit a shot off the facade of the building in right field. The comeback was timed well for Murphy (1-0), who got the win.
The Northwest tacked on a run in the sixth on Pieters' second double of the night. The Pioneer League got it back quickly as Grand Junction's Colton Welker came home on a groundout by Ogden's Ibandel Isabel.
The game was not without some dazzling defense. Hampson made a sensational play at shortstop in the second, gunning down the speedy Isabel. He topped it an inning later by short-hopping Schnurbusch's grounder to start a double play.
"That ball was smoked, for sure. Right at me," Hampson said. "I think I did a good job of playing it out in front of me instead of just trying to kind of box it up. It was a good double play, good turn by Cavan."
Billings' Jose Siri, playing center field for the Pioneer League, gunned down Smith trying for third on a base hit by Everett's Donnie Walton in the eighth. On the next play, Siri went back and robbed Salem-Keizer's Kevin Rivera with an outstanding catch against the wall in right-center.
It was announced tonight that, pending MLB and MiLB approval, next year's All-Star Game will be hosted by the Northwest League's Hillsboro Hops.