CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- The game may not mean anything in the league standings, but Jorge Bonifacio got the hero treatment nonetheless.
J.C. Sulbaran and Alex Liddi dumped a bucket of water on Bonifacio -- their Northwest Arkansas teammate -- to celebrate his Top Star Award as the North Division pulled away for a 9-4 win over the South in the Texas League All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Whataburger Field.
Bonifacio broke an eighth-inning tie when he ripped a 2-2 fastball from Tayron Guerrero and deposited it onto the left field berm for a two-run homer that put the North ahead for good.
"I had two strikes on me and a guy on second, so I was just trying to put the ball in play," the 22-year-old outfielder said. "I got a fastball in and hit it hard. It feels good to come through like that."
Bonifacio, entering the tunnel under the stadium wearing a drenched jersey, was greeted by hoots and hollers from teammates who'd already made their way back to the locker room. It was one of many signs that the game meant something to the participants.
"If you can't get yourself ready to go for a Double-A All-Star Game, then you're in the wrong business," said North manager Razor Shines of the Tulsa Drillers. "This is Double-A, where people go from here to the Major League level all the time."
Besides Bonifacio's late-inning heroics, the North shuffled in a plethora of big arms in the late innings. After the South tied it at 4-4 in the fifth, Shields used six relievers to retire the final 14 batters in a row. Tulsa's Chris Anderson got with the win with a scoreless seventh.
The South totaled four hits, including solo homers by San Antonio's Travis Jankowski in the first inning and Midland's Ryon Healy in the second. Trailing, 4-2, entering the bottom of the fifth, a trio of RockHounds sparked a rally. Chad Pinder walked and Chad Oberacker doubled. Pinder scored on Carson Blair's sacrifice fly and Oberacker raced home on a wild pitch.
With Jankowski on third and one out, Arkansas' Albert Suarez struck out Colin Walsh and Tulsa's Jeremy Kehrt retired pinch-hitter Nomar Mazara on a groundout.
"I think we saw some outstanding pitching out there," Shines said. "Both sides had good pitchers, but I think our pitchers were the difference in the game. We gave up those solo home runs early, but then our pitchers really came through."
The South got a solid performance out of starter Chris Devenski. The Corpus Christi ace, pitching before 7,370 fans in his home ballpark, struck out two in two perfect innings.
"There was an electric energy out there," said Devenski, who went 7-1 with a 1.16 ERA in the first half. "I felt like I was walking down Electric Avenue. My changeup is the pitch I'm kind of known for … it's the pitch that has its own nickname, so I threw that to start off the game. It goes for a called strike and, man, I just took off from there."
Devenski left with a 2-0 lead, but the North got on the board in the third when Springfield's Nick Martini doubled, took third on a groundout and scored on a fielder's choice by Jeremy Hazelbaker. The visitors drew even an inning later when Arkansas' Brian Hernandez singled home Northwest Arkansas' Balbino Fuenmayor, who went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
The North went ahead in the fifth when Springfield's Charlie Tilson ripped a two-run single to right.
"I was just looking to be aggressive in that spot and make good contact," said Tilson, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. "It was pretty cool for me. There was a big crowd and my parents were in the stands to see it. That was a nice moment."
After Bonifacio's big blast in the eighth, the North opened things up with a three-run ninth off Hooks reliever Jandel Gustave.
"That was outstanding," Shines said. "Those guys went out there and showed why they're All-Stars."