Long Balls Headline 2017 MWL All-Star Break
The first half of the Midwest League season is in the books and it was action packed. However, just because the games were on hold for a couple of days doesn’t mean the excitement was over as the Midwest League All-Star break was sure to pack plenty of entertainment.
The action got started on Monday night when eight of the best hitters in the Midwest League got together for the annual home run derby at Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan. The night began with a 40 minute rain delay, but it was well worth the wait.
After two competitive rounds to get things started, two teenagers, who also happen to be two of the most feared hitters in the league, squared off in a final to remember. First up was Great Lakes Loon, Carlos Rincon. Rincon had already swatted a combined 18 dingers in his first two rounds to give his hometown fans something to cheer for, but they hadn’t seen anything yet. Rincon got hot and finished up his final round with 20 home runs in four minutes, enough to secure the title over the Lansing Lugnuts’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Rincon had 38 total long balls in the derby.
Tuesday night marked the 53rd annual Midwest League All-Star game as the two divisions prepared to do battle at Dow Diamond. With much better weather than the night before, all 16 Midwest League teams trotted out some top prospects to represent not only their club, but the parent club as well.
The scoring came early for the Eastern Division, but it didn’t come often. Guerrero Jr drove in fellow Lansing Lugnut, Bo Bichette, (who else did you expect to have the first scoring combo?) to get a run in the bottom of the first. That would be the only time that the east would see the scoreboard until the bottom of the ninth.
The pitching staff for the east was cruising until the top of the fourth when the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ Lewin Diaz hit a two run homer to give the west the lead. Monte Harrison would add to that lead with a solo shot of his own in the top of the 7th and follow it up with a very unique celebration. Harrison then secured his selection as the Midwest League All-Star game’s MVP when he hit his second home run of the night, a two run shot in the ninth. The Great Lake Loons’ own Brendon Davis hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth in front of his hometown fans, but the comeback effort would end there as the Western Division took home the 5-2 victory.
It was fitting that one night after a home run derby for the ages, six of the seven runs in the All-Star game came off of the long ball. In all, 16 position players and 13 pitchers played for the Eastern Division while the victorious Westerners had 15 position players and 13 pitchers take the field.
Monte Harrison (MVP): 2/4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Lewin Diaz: 1/2, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Jordan Hicks: 0.2 IP, 2 SO
Carson LaRue: 0.2 IP, 2 SO
Brendon Davis: 1/1, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Dylan Cease: 1 IP 0 H, 2 SO
Midwest League action is set to resume on Thursday night. The first half of the 2017 season was eventful and with so much talent in the league, the second half is sure to be just as exciting. The first half playoff race came down to the wire and with half of the post season spots wrapped up, it will be interesting to see who rises to the top down the second half stretch.