NEW ALBANY – The North Division continued its domination of the Central in Saturday’s first-ever BNA Bank Cotton States Baseball League All-Star Game.
The North, which was 12-0 in interdivision play against the South this season, defeated the Central All-Stars 9-8 in front of 225 fans at the New Albany Sportsplex’s Legion Field on Saturday afternoon.
“They’re really good,” said losing pitcher Tyler Dalton. “And we’re good but they’re just better.
“Their teams are just more put together than we are.”
The Central Division teams are made up primarily of college players who live in the Jackson area, while the North Division features players from all over North Mississippi and some players from out of state as well.
However, Saturday’s game wasn’t a walk in the park for the winners. The North, coached by Chris Basil, gave up a four-run lead and trailed 8-6 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
“Our errors just killed us today,” Basil said of his team’s three miscues in the field. “They ended up making it close.
“I’m just proud of these guys for coming back. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of them probably didn’t get to play as much as they needed to.”
And the North did indeed come right back in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back RBI doubles by Josh Chism and Evan Weibel to tie it at 8.
“They can smash,” said Dalton, who came on in the seventh to relieve Dan Griffin, who surrendered the two fifth-inning runs.
Mississippi State signee Nick Vickerson singled home Ronnie Ferrell with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth, and Brandon Hall came on in the ninth to close things out for the North.
“He just came and shut them down,” Basil said of Hall’s 1-2-3 ninth inning. “He’s got great stuff.
“He struggles a little bit with his accuracy sometimes, but he’s got a fastball that’s explosive, an unbelievable curveball, and he’s a special kid.”
Jeffrey Vance picked up the win for the North, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.
Vickerson, who signed with MSU after playing the past two seasons at Shelton State (Ala.) Community College, took home MVP honors after going 3 for 5 with four RBIs. Not too bad for someone who only plays on the weekends because of summer courses he attends during the week.
“I’ve just been working on some things at home, just trying to let the ball get deep,” Vickerson said. “I struggled defensively a little bit. I haven’t worked on that too much, but I guess it paid off working on hitting a little bit.
“I’m just trying to come over here and get better, really. I don’t get to play too much during the week, so I try to take advantage of my at-bats on the weekend.”
– The All-Star Game was proceeded by a home run derby that was settled in exciting fashion. Gardner Richey beat out former Tupelo High teammate Kyle Thornton in a hit-off.
Thornton hit three homers right off the bat in the second round before making 10 straight outs, and the two were tied with three homers apiece after the second round.
Richey hit the only home run in the hit-off.
– Former Chicago Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal