WAUSAU – The 2017 Northwoods League All-Star Game was deadlocked for several innings Tuesday in Wausau, but in the eighth inning, everything changed.
The South Division struck for four runs on four hits, including one of each by a player from the hometown team, to jump out to a lead. From there, it was up to the other hometown player to seal the deal, and he did, as he so often does, to clinch the 6-2 victory for the South Division at Athletic Park.
The evening’s festivities began with the Home Run Derby. Rochester’s Zach Zubia leads the league in homers and kicked off the event by blasting five dingers to stake the North to an early lead. Nolan Bumstead hit three to extend the lead, but the South countered with three from Christian Jones and two from a trio of players to close the gap to two. Scooter Bynum couldn’t score in the final inning, and Stevie Mangrum stepped in with a chance to tie the score, but he came up empty and the North claimed the event 13-11, with Zubia taking home the trophy as the top individual hitter.
The South got off to a fast start once the All-Star Game kicked off. Madison’s Cole Daily led off the first with a walk. He promptly stole second and got to third when catcher Jay Schuyler’s throw sailed into center field. Mangrum, representing the host Woodchucks, lined a single into left to score Daily and stake the South to an early lead.
The North responded quickly. St. Cloud’s Shane Selman led off the second with a single and later charged home on Schuyler’s single, but Madison center fielder Doran Turchin popped up and rocketed a beautiful throw home where Lakeshore catcher Nick Gatewood applied the tag on Selman to prevent the run. Undeterred, the next batter, Mankato’s Ethan Valdez, smashed a ground-rule double into the left-field corner to score Schuyler to level the score.
The North seized its first lead of the game in the very next inning. Willmar’s Marcus Still led off the third with an infield single, got to third on a single by Thunder Bay’s Andy Weber, and came home on a wild pitch from Fond du Lac’s Jon Mierzwa to put the North up 2-1. It remained that way until the fifth, when Kenosha’s Derek Bangert blasted the first pitch he saw from Bismarck’s Tyler Steele over the left-field wall to tie the game at two apiece.
The game remained deadlocked until the eighth. The North threatened in the top with a double and a walk, but Kalamazoo’s Connor Manous got the final out of the frame to keep the score tied. It didn’t stay that way for long. Lakeshore’s Matthew Mika led off the bottom half with a double to right, and Daily followed with an RBI single. Turchin then singled to score Daily, and Mangrum doubled to score Turchin. Mangrum then scored as well when Fond du Lac catcher Nick Fortes’ ground ball snuck through Weber’s legs, capping off the scoring with the South up 6-2. Manous got one out in the ninth before Wisconsin’s Orsen Josephina, the league leader in saves, struck out the two batters he faced to seal the deal in a 6-2 win for the South Division.