CHATHAM, Mass.–It was a scorcher Saturday, as the East and West met in a showdown for bragging rights in the 2016 Cape Cod League All-Star game at Veteran’s Field.
With 7,000 fans in attendance, the West dominated the East, winning 8-0.
Prior to the lop-sided game, fans got to see six of the league’s heavyweights in the Home Run Derby.
Contenders, Pat Mathis (Texas), Drew Lugbauer (Michigan), Ryan Noda (Cincinnati), Colton Shaver (BYU) and Danny Reyes (Florida) were unable to best Hyannis Harbor Hawk, Kameron Esthay (Baylor), who hit a total of 11 home runs.
Mathis led the first round with eight homers, only to be beat in the finals by Esthay’s four long balls.
After a short break, the on-field festivities continued with a special National Anthem appearance by season nine American Idol sixth-place finalist Siobhan Magnus, who is a native of Barnstable.
If there wasn’t enough on the field to hold fans’ attention leading up to the big event of the night, spectators could shop around the merchandise village and the silent auction; where items available ranged from Red Sox tickets, to Patriots singed memorabilia, to a Larry Bird autographed jersey-it was a Boston sports fan’s dream.
With MLB Network and Fox College Sports filming the event, seats began to fill up as it neared the six o’clock hour. Scouts sat behind home plate as fans filled out the seats around the dugouts and the grassy outfield hill.
With Jeffery Passantino (Lipscomb) taking the mound for the West, East hitters were unable to get a hit off the righty, who pitched one inning with one strikeout, a tell-tale sign of how the night would unfold.
After a scoreless first for both teams, the West set the tone, scoring three runs off Joe Ryan (Cal State Northridge) by way of three solo shots from Tyler Lawrence (Murray State), ODU’s Zach Rutherford and Bourne’s own Connor Wong (Houston.)
The Braves were well represented throughout the night, contributing to key plays on both offense and defense. Combining to go four hits, a home run, three runs, two RBIs and two scoreless innings from Tony Dibrell (Kennesaw State) and Brendon Little (UNC Chapel Hill.)
Dibrell came in to pitch the bottom of the fifth, posting zeros in every column.
“I felt pretty good,” Dibrell said. “There were a lot of scouts so I was pretty pumped up. But I knew I had good defense so I just pounded the zone and [my approach was to] get ahead.”
Dibrell was right, with more than 50 scouts in attendance, the backstop was a sea of radar guns throughout the night as a new pitcher appeared each inning.
The radar guns lit up when hard-throwing lefty Little took the mound for the seventh, in which he followed suit with almost every pitcher for the West.
“I felt pretty good,” Little said. “My arm was a little tired from throwing yesterday, but the adrenaline helped keep me going. My approach was just to pound them with fastballs.”
Fastballs were his recipe for success, giving up just one hit and striking out two after making an impromptu appearance against Hyannis the night before, allowing just a walk in a hitless seventh inning.
That hit was one of just five the East could notch against a dominating West staff, with standout innings from almost every arm, leading to an eventual shutout.
With Willy Yahn (UConn) and Justin Yurchak (Binghamton) manning the corners in the later innings, the two managed to each knock a single, with Yahn driving in an RBI to contribute to a four-run eighth inning.
“Today was a lot of fun,” Yahn said. “It was a great opportunity for the guys on both teams to showcase their talents. I was just trying to find a fastball and get a pitch I could handle and I did that in my second at bat, and got a run on the board for the team. That hit was [the best part of the experience.] I played in an all-star game last year and didn’t get a knock, so I was a little worried about not getting another knock in an all-star game, and just getting that hit was a relief. Me and the boys were all smiling in here, so it was a good experience.”
Yurchak struggled at the plate, going 1 for 5 with a strikeout, but scored one of the eight runs on the night.
“It was a great atmosphere with so much talent on both teams,” Yurchak said. “It was a really cool experience, it wasn’t the best day [for me] but wouldn’t have traded it for anything. [The best experience] was getting to hang out with the guys on the other teams, we’re playing against them everyday, it’s tough and it’s a rivalry but getting to know them well was a lot of fun.”
One player that everyone in attendance got to know well, especially East pitchers was Rutherford, who became the West MVP after going 3 for 3 with two RBIs, one run scored and several highlight-reel plays at shortstop to seal his spot in Cape Cod League fame.
With the ninth inning coming to a close, some of the players were a little too eager to wrap up a win. With two outs, Vanderbilt’s Ethan Paul hit a long, foul ball out to left in which Trevor Larnach (OSU) covered extensive ground to reel in, with the ball in glove, Bourne’s Yahn and Yurchak failed to see the third base umpire rule it out of the field of play-meeting each other half-way with a running leap to celebrate the victory, only to find out it was just a foul ball.
“Ya know, me and Yurchak were really excited, and we had to run it back again, so you know, we’ll do the celebration twice,” Yahn said.
And that they did, with the final out fittingly fielded by Yahn to Yurchak for a 5-3 putout to seal the crown for the West and officially let the on-field celebrating begin.