PULASKI, Va. -- A nine-inning game that featured six home runs needed 19 more to settle it.
After the regular game ended tied 6-6, the West defeated the East, 10-9, in a home run derby that decided the Appalachian League All-Star Game at Pulaski’s Motor Mile Field at Calfee Park. The thrilling contest was the first All-Star Game held since the Appy League moved to a collegiate wood-bat summer league for the 2021 season.
Following the nine-inning draw, the extra-inning format called for three sluggers from both sides to hit as many homers as possible over 10 swings. West third baseman Cort Maynard (Bristol) served as the hero, sending four homers into the Pulaski night in his round. The other five contestants -- Joey Vetrano (Johnson City) and Sam Thompson (Elizabethton) in the West; Cameron Leary (Pulaski), Ryan Johnson (Pulaski) and Dylan Rogers (Princeton) went deep three times each.
Rogers, who entered the night as the league leader in home runs with eight, just missed a chance to tie the derby on his final swing. The left-handed slugger easily cleared the right-field fence but saw the ball sail foul, giving the West the exhibition victory. The West first baseman provided his own theatrics in the regular nine-inning contest by going 3-for-4 with a first-inning homer out of the cleanup spot.
Vetrano, a Boston College first baseman, opened the scoring with a two-run, opposite-field blast to left that gave the visiting West side an early advantage. That was erased with Rogers’ three-run blast in the bottom half of the frame, and the East hosts expanded the lead to 5-2 when catcher Eric Grintz (Bluefield) and third baseman AJ Jones -- both coming in as late-game replacements -- went deep themselves in the sixth. Jones’ homer landed way beyond the fence and on the steps of a neighbor’s yard across the street from Calfee Park.
Marcus Brown -- the Appy League batting leader with a .425 average entering Tuesday -- cut that West deficit to 5-4 with a two-run homer of his own in the eighth, but an RBI infield single by Michael Eze (Bluefield) expanded the East’s lead back to 6-4 with one frame left.
That’s when Robin Fernandez (Elizabethton) took his opportunity to shine. The West infielder, who entered the night with no home runs this Appy League season, launched a two-run homer with no outs in the top of the ninth, knotting the game at 6-6. Speaking to MLB Network’s Alexa Datt after the dinger, the St. Thomas infielder dedicated his clutch blast to his father, who was celebrating his birthday Tuesday.
Following the West’s derby victory, 25 homers in total left the stadium in Pulaski, making for a memorable night in a league hoping to become a premier summer spot for college players in 2021 and beyond.