PULASKI, Va. – Dylan Rogers (Princeton) blasted a three-run homer in the first inning – the first of the game’s six total homers – as the East and West All-Stars played to a 6-6 tie in the 2021 Appalachian League All-Star Game presented by Pennzoil at Calfee Park in Pulaski, Va. The West then won a tiebreaking home run derby, 10-9, to secure a victory in the inaugural Appy League All-Star Game.
Joey Vetrano (Johnson City) got the West Team on the board early, cranking a two-run, opposite-field home run to open the scoring. Vetrano’s homer drove in Homer Bush, Jr. (Greeneville), who led off the game with a single.
The West’s lead didn’t last long, though, as the East scored three in the bottom of the inning. After a walk and single from Mike Seegers (Bluefield) and Benji Gilbert (Burlington), Rogers sent a three-run homer to straightaway center field to give the East a 3-2 lead. Rogers, who started the game at first base, leads the Appy League in homers with eight on the season.
The game’s following five innings were dominated by pitching. Throwing on his home mound, Lucas Reed (Pulaski) pitched around a two-out single for a scoreless second inning. Nate Ackenhausen (Bluefield) then turned in a perfect third inning for the East, striking out a pair, before Brooks Ey (Bluefield) retired the side in the fourth.
After the three-run first, the West pitching staff also settled in. Bryce Mayer (Greeneville) threw a perfect second inning before handing the ball to Rhian Mann (Bristol) for another perfect frame. After Rogers led off the fourth with a single and Mark Trotta (Pulaski) reached on an error, Austin Troesser (Greeneville) escaped trouble to keep the West team within a run.
The strong pitching and defense continued into the middle innings. Justin Showalter (Princeton) sat down the side in order in the top of the fifth, and Andrew Ronne (Johnson City) worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless fifth for the West.
After Grant Leader (Danville) and Tyler Judge (Danville) combined for a scoreless top half of the sixth, the East Team offensive output returned in the bottom of the inning. After entering the game in the sixth and making a big defensive play, AJ Jones (Princeton) hit a solo shot to right to extend his team’s lead. The advantage grew to 5-2 two batters later when Eric Grintz (Bluefield) hit a longball of his own over the left field wall.
The teams both went scoreless in the seventh before the West Team trimmed its deficit to one in the top of the eighth. After Eddie Micheletti (Greeneville) reached on a leadoff walk, Marcus Brown (Elizabethton) hit a two-run home run to make it 5-4.
Michael Eze (Bluefield) helped the East Team add a run in the bottom of the inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, the outfielder chopped an infield single to drive in a run and extend the East’s lead to 6-4.
But the West Team wasted no time responding in the top of the ninth, tying the game with the inning’s first two hitters. After Vetrano led off with a single, Robin Fernandez (Elizabethton) got in on the longball action, crushing a home run to center field to tie the game at 6-6.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cameron Wagoner (Greeneville) and Manuel Rodriguez (Elizabethton) combined for a perfect inning to send the game to a deciding home run derby.
In the derby, Cort Maynard (Bristol), Sam Thompson (Elizabethton), and Vetrano combined for 10 homers to knock off Cameron Leary (Pulaski), Johnson, and Rogers, who combined for nine.
Rogers paced the East Team offense, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in the game. Gilbert (1-3), Grintz (1-for-1), Jones (1-for-1), Eze (1-for-4) Seegers (1-for-4) all added hits for the East.
Vetrano went 2-for-4 for the West Team, scoring twice and driving in two runs. Chase Adkison (Elizabethton, 1-for-2), Brown (1-for-4), Bush (1-for-4), and Fernandez (1-for-1) added hits for the West, with Brown and Fernandez also adding a pair of RBIs.
Zane Probst (Princeton) had a game-high three strikeouts on the mound for the East. Ackenhausen added two strikeouts in his inning of work, while Mann, Mayer, Rodriguez, Ronne, and Wagoner all turned in hitless performances on the mound for the West.