VICTORIA, British Columbia — Expectations can be high when nine members of a club represent the organization on a large stage.
For those nine Walla Walla Sweets participating in the 2013 West Coast League All-Star Game, the boys out of Walla Walla did Sweets Country proud despite the North Division’s 7-5 loss at Royal Athletic Park here on Tuesday.
Recent UCLA national champion and current Sweets pitcher Cody Poteet took home the honor of Top All-Star Game Prospect, as voted on by the more than 25 Major League scouts in attendance Tuesday night.
Poteet, who hit the first batter he faced in one complete inning of work, clocked in at the low- to mid 90-mph mark on the radar gun. The young right-hander induced a ground-ball double play and struck out a hitter to retire the side in the top of the second inning.
It’s the second year in a row that a Walla Walla Sweets alumnus has won the prestigious award. Poteet’s UCLA teammate and former Sweets left-hander Hunter Virant earned the honor last season when Walla Walla hosted the 2012 All-Star Game.
With three Sweets in the starting lineup, pitcher Bret Helton started on the mound, but was touched up for a run on three hits in the first inning. Bend Elks center fielder Chase Fields led off for the South Division with a single to left field on the first pitch, but was quickly erased on a fielder’s choice.
Corvallis Knight catcher Dane Lund reached first on the play and later scored on Cowlitz Black Bear Kyle Knigge’s single up the middle. Knigge earned All-Star Game MVP honors with a 2-for-3 evening, driving in a pair of runs and scoring once.
The North responded immediately as Kelowna Falcon center fielder Darren Kolk slapped a lead-off single to right field. He stole second base uncontested, and reached third on a wild pitch before Sweets left fielder Kramer Lindell’s RBI groundout to shortstop tied the game.
Victoria HarbourCats designated hitter Alex Real followed with a double to the left-field wall, and Sweets catcher Renae Martinez brought him home as the go-ahead run with a single to right.
That lead was snatched back in the top of the third when Fields walked to start the inning and scored on Knigge’s RBI double. Bend Elks designated hitter Derek Dixon singled to drive in Knigge and give the South a 3-2 lead.
In the third inning, Lindell drove in the tying run with a shot over the left-center field wall to lead off the frame.
The game remained tied at 3-all as left-hander Matt Hall came on and pitched an inning of scoreless baseball, allowing one hit and one walk, but stranding both runners.
The score was untied in the sixth when Sweets All-Star Fan Vote selection Sean Silva surrendered one earned run in his one full frame on the mound. He struck out the first hitter he faced, but gave up back-to-back singles and a walk before a wild pitch allowed the go-ahead run to score.
It was a lead the South would not give back.
Silva was saddled with the loss, and two more runs scored in the seventh inning before the North began a late-game rally.
Sweets left-hander Chris Lovejoy struck out the only man he faced to start the ninth before being replaced by Sweets righty Sean-Luke Brija, who induced a fly out and gave up a single to right field, but struck out the final South Division hitter to send the game into the bottom of the ninth.
With one out, Victoria shortstop Alex DeGoti was hit by a pitch to start the line moving. Two hitters later, his teammate Ryan Yamane singled to left-center field before Bellingham Bells third baseman Alex Calbick drove DeGoti home with a single to the same spot.
A third consecutive hit to left-center, this time a double by Wenatchee AppleSox outfielder Brett Stephens, put Yamane across the plate to bring the North within two runs at 7-5.
However, with Sweets first baseman Matt Mendenhall at the plate and the tying run at second base, the rally was cut short when he popped out to shortstop to end the game.
The second half of the 2013 season kicks off tonight, and the first-place Sweets travel to Cowlitz at 6:35.
WCL All-Star Game
South 7, North 5
South 102 002 200 — 7 11 0
North 201 000 002 — 5 8 0
Horth, Gartner (2), Sabo (3), Watkins (4), DeRooy (5), Raley (6), Wilkins (7), Barker (8), Choate (9) and Lund, McKeon. Helton, Poteet (2), Huberman (3), Hall (4), Kuzminsky (5), Silva (6), Lubking (7), Cole (8), Lovejoy (9), Brija (9) and Martinez, Johnson.
HR — North: Lindell.
Hits — South: Fields 2, Knigge 2, Davidson, Dixon 2, McIntire, Lenahan, Spivey 2; North: Kolk, Stephens, Lindell, Real, Martinez, Yamane, Calbick 2.