A near-capacity crowd of 8,126 watched the Northern Division edge the Southern Division 2-1 in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Tuesday night.
It was the second time the Legends hosted the midseason showcase, and this year’s game featured second-year Legends manager Omar Ramirez as one of the Southern Division coaches, as well as Legends pitcher Emilio Ogando. Catcher Chase Vallot was also named to the team but missed the game after being hit in the face with a fastball last week against West Virginia.
The Northern Division took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Victor Robles singled to center field, stole second base and then came home on Max Schrock’s double to right. Schrock gave the North a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth with an RBI single to left field.
The Southern squad threatened in the bottom of the fifth when Mitchell Gonsolus slapped a one-out double and Ray-Patrick Didder was hit by a pitch, but Erik Swanson struck out the next two batters.
Ogando entered the game in the top of the fourth inning to a nice ovation from the home crowd and sat down the Northern Division batters in order. He navigated a 3-0 count to induce a fly ball for the first out, got a nice assist when center fielder Ray-Patrick Didder made a diving catch and struck out Alex Murphy swinging to end the inning.
Ogando said he had more butterflies than he expected when he took the mound.
“The nerves were definitely getting to me at first,” he said. “It was exciting. I was hoping to get at least one strikeout in there.
“That great play in center helped out big time, too. I thought it was gonna drop for a big play. After that, I kind of settled down and got into the flow.”
Greenville’s Austin Rei cut the lead in half with a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the eighth.
Pitchers dominated the night, with both teams combining for 21 strikeouts.
In the seventh inning, fans got to check out Mariano Rivera III, the son of all-time major-league saves leader and 13-time New York Yankees All-Star Mariano Rivera. The elder Rivera was in the stands and watched his son work a 1-2-3 inning, beginning with a flyout from Luke Matheny — the son of St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny — and ending with a strikeout.
EX-CAT RAVI MOSS PART OF HOME RUN DERBY
Before Tuesday’s game, fans were treated to the “Legendary Derby,” a home run competition that matched local celebrities with SAL All-Stars with $10,000 for charity on the line. Points were awarded for home runs and deep shots to certain areas of the field.
Former UK basketball player Ravi Moss (2002-2006) participated along with former Bryan Station and Butler star Shelvin Mack, who plays for the Utah Jazz. Former Eastern Kentucky football player and current Kentucky State special teams coordinator Jason Dunn, who spent 10 seasons in the NFL with the Eagles and Chiefs, also took a turn in the batter’s box.
The tandem of Greenville’s Mitchell Gonsolus and Legends Manager Omar Ramirez won the competition with 1,500 points. Dunn and Greenville’s Josh Ockimey finished second with 1,300 points while Moss and Augusta’s Dylan Davis tied Mack and Delmarva’s Alex Murphy for sixth place with 800 points.
Moss lives in Lexington and works in pharmaceutical sales. He didn’t manage to send a ball over the fence, but the former guard who averaged 5.7 points as a senior said that didn’t diminish the fun of being a part of the All-Star festivities.
“This crowd is great and that was an absolute blast. I had an awesome time,” he said. “I didn’t hit any out, but I don’t think any celebrities hit many so I don’t feel too bad.
“My high school coach wanted me to play baseball but I didn’t, so I love doing stuff like this.”
FORMER UK BASEBALL COACH THROWS OUT FIRST PITCH
Former Kentucky baseball coach Keith Madison was one of five guests to throw out first pitches before the game. A member of the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Madison coached the Wildcats from 1979-2003. His 723 wins are the most by a UK baseball coach.
Madison’s was the only pitch to make it to the catcher cleanly, though his 49 mph heater appeared to cross the plate well north of the strike zone.
Josh Sullivan; 859-948-6668