The Frontier League All-Star Game at Consol Energy Park Wednesday night had a distinctive Midwestern flavor.
It seems even though the West beat the East, 4-2, to spoil the host division’s three-day extravaganza, you almost wouldn’t be surprised if either Schaumburg’s Sean Mahley or River City’s Nick Kennedy, displaying that typical Midwestern politeness, apologized for it.
Mahley drove in two runs with a triple in the second inning to earn Most Valuable Player honors, and Kennedy struck out the side on 12 pitches during a dominant seventh as the West cruised.
“We had a good group of guys here, a good lineup, and we battled it out,” said Mahley, who was doused with water by Schaumburg teammates Michael Valadez and Gerard Hall. “We were able to pull it out. I was proud of them. We all played well. It’s a well-deserved win.”
Things were mostly quiet for Washington’s contingent of C.J. Beatty, Stewart Ijames and Jovan Rosa. The trio combined to go 0-for-5 with a strikeout and an error. Wild Things catcher Jim Vahalik, out for the next three weeks with a wrist injury, entered as a pinch-runner but was quickly erased on a double play.
East pitcher Scott Dunn, a South Side Beaver graduate and Beaver County native, started the game and retired all three batters he faced. The Traverse City ace needed six pitches and about three minutes to complete his work for the evening.
Dunn’s outing was impressive, sure, but none of the 20 pitchers used matched Kennedy’s dominance. His slider darted across the plate, teasing hitters as it quickly exited the strike zone. He needed just 12 pitches and bulldozed his way to three 1-2 counts.
“I live and die by my slider,” Kennedy said. “I got a couple of fastballs in there, but the slider was definitely working tonight.”
The West Division jumped out to a 3-0 lead with three unearned runs off Lake Erie’s Matt Rein in the top of the second inning.
One scored on a fielder’s choice, made possible by an error charged to Beatty at second base a batter earlier. Mahley tripled to the Louis Anthony Jewelers sign in right center to drive in two more.
“He was throwing me a lot of curveballs, and I finally got a pitch I could handle,” Mahley said. “I took advantage of it.”
The East Division made a charge in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Southern Illinois first baseman Geraldo Avila laced a double to the wall in right field, barely beating Mahley’s throw.
That triggered a two-out, two-run rally that saw center fielder John Schultz, a former Pitt player now with the Evansville Otters, and second baseman Max Casper of Lake Erie, record back-to-back, run-scoring singles.
The West tacked on a fourth run in the top of the seventh on Gateway catcher Landon Hernandez’ bloop double to right, the ball dropping at the feet of right fielder C.J. Henry and second baseman Max Casper.
“It feels good,” Mahley said. “I was (an all-star) last year, and we dropped the game. Feels good to get a win this year.”
There were two missed opportunities that the East Squad can lament.
In the first, Evansville’s Henry lined an opposite-field double to the wall in right, but Lake Erie’s Andrew Davis struck out and Balbino Fuenmayor of the Frontier Greys bounced back to the pitcher, stranding Henry at second.
The East loaded the bases in the third, only to have Fuenmayor end the inning again with a grounder to short.
The East left eight runners total, two apiece in the sixth and eighth innings.
“Our guys were ready,” said West Division manager Phil Warren, who also manages the Gateway Grizzlies. “We didn’t have any practice time or anything … just some batting practice. But they were loose. They had a good mindset to let it hang out and show everybody what they’re about. We were able to put something together and win.”