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Tanielu earns MVP after All-Star deadlock

Astros prospect goes 3-for-3, singles in lone run for North squad
August 19, 2014

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- As it turned out, Nick Tanielu had to make the New York-Penn League All-Star Game just to get a look at the circuit's best pitchers.

"Honestly, I didn't recognize [any opposing pitchers]," the Astros prospect said. "That was probably a good thing."

The 2014 14th-round Draft pick didn't need familiarity, apparently.

Tanielu went 3-for-3, drove in his team's only run and earned All-Star MVP honors Tuesday night as the North settled for a 1-1 tie with the South before 7,230 at MCU Park.

The deadlock was the first in the eight-year history of the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. The contest was called after nine innings, with both managers making pitching changes with two outs in the ninth to ensure each of their 10 hurlers got in the contest.

"It should be this way with an All-Star Game," said North manager Tim Parenton of the Hudson Valley Renegades. "I know a lot of purists are saying that you have to play extra innings, but we're in a stretch run right now and every coach has his worries when you play an All-Star Game this late in the year."

Tanielu generated most of the North's early offense. He singled in his first two at-bats, sending a line drive to left field in the first inning and another liner to right in the fourth. He was stranded in both frames.

The Astros infielder got an at-bat with men on in the fifth and capitalized to produce the game's first run. With runners at first and second and two outs, he dropped a soft liner just out of the reach of Staten Island second baseman Ty McFarland, allowing Hudson Valley's Bralin Jackson to score.

Tanielu, a Huntsville, Alabama native, was drafted out of Washington State in June. The 21-year-old hit .340 in 53 games with the Cougars, clubbing 16 doubles and one homer. After posting a .189 average in his first 12 Minor League games, he's been excellent for the ValleyCats with a .333 average and .837 OPS over his last 41 contests.

"Right off the bat, you have different kinds of pitchers, different kinds of plans you have to get used to," Tanielu said of transitioning to pro ball. "Playing every day is a grind, definitely. Seeing good pitchers every day, it's tough.

"You have to get mentally ready, physically ready and just go out there and play your best. Even though you don't have your best, you have to fake it 'til you make it, basically."

The South went without a hit through four innings, with Nolan Gannon (Hudson Valley), Chase Edwards (Connecticut), Hunter Wood (Hudson Valley) and Michael Mader (Batavia) each tossing a scoreless frame.

Connecticut Tigers right-hander Johan Belisario entered for the fifth and gave the South its second baserunner when he plunked leadoff man Francisco Mejia. The Indians' No. 6 prospect left with an apparent injury, favoring the area around and above his right elbow. Staten Island's Luis Torrens ran for Mejia.

After striking out McFarland, Belisario allowed the South's first hit as Williamsport's Derek Campbell singled on a ground ball to the right side. Campbell and Torrens were stranded, though, with Belisario struck out Aberdeen's Jay Gonzalez.

Torrens, the Yankees' 10th-ranked prospect, scored the South's lone run in the seventh, ripping a one-out double to right-center field for the team's second hit. He took third when Lowell's Mauricio Dubon booted Isaias Tejada's grounder to short, then came home on Campbell's long sacrifice fly.

Brooklyn right-hander Marcos Molina got the start for the South and posted a clean first inning. Vermont's Yairo Munoz gave the Mets' No. 16 prospect a battle, fouling off four pitches before striking out on a 2-2 curveball. Molina got a first-pitch groundout from Lowell's Danny Mars, then allowed a single to left to Tanielu.

The 19-year-old finished up his inning fanning Hudson Valley's Hunter Lockwood on an up-and-in fastball.

"He's had such a terrific season at 19," said South skipper Tom Gamboa of the Cyclones. "I just saw recently where he's the No. 16 prospect in the Mets' farm system. My answer to that is, if we have 15 players better than him, then the Mets are headed for the World Series in the not-too-distant future because I just see him on the fast track."

The South threatened to snap the tie in the bottom of the ninth after Jamestown's Kevin Ross drew a one-out walk. With two strikes on Torrens, Ross stole second and took third on a throwing error by Batavia catcher Rodrigo Vigil. But Torrens struck out, leaving Ross at third with two outs.

Parenton went to his bullpen, calling on Auburn right-hander Mario Sanchez to face Tejada. The South backstop grounded a roller back to the mound to end the game.

The low-scoring affair wasn't a big surprise to Gamboa, who has "lost count" of how many All-Star Games he's managed since taking his first Minor League gig in 1979.

"I anticipated a 1-0 or 2-1 game because when you throw 10 pitchers in nine innings, the hitters don't get a chance to get any rhythm at all," he said. "They're facing somebody different each time up there, so when a pitcher knows what he's going to throw and where he's going to throw it, and a hitter doesn't have any rhythm to gauge off that, it gives the pitching an enormous advantage, which was shown in the game tonight."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.