WAREHAM ─ It was an evening of magic moments and sweet surprises when the best of the East took on the best of the West in the 2017 Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game at Spillane Field in Wareham Saturday.
The West Division hopped to an early 3-0 lead in the traditional outing between divisions, scoring a run in the second inning and two more in the third, but the beasts from the East were not to be outdone and came rallying back in the game's second half largely thanks to Jimmy Herron of the Orleans Firebirds.
The East fireworks began in the fifth inning when Brewster's Michael Curry swung into a long bomb of a homer to put the East side on the scoreboard, with the West leading by 3. The East added another run to its tally, this time thanks to Chatham's Josh Shaw who opened the frame with a double before racing home on a putout by Kyle Isbel of the Y-D Red Sox, narrowing the West lead to one run at 3-2.
Then came the spectacular seventh. After Y-D's Carlos Cortes and Brewster's Mickey Gasper and Michael Curry loaded the bases on walks, Herron stepped up to the plate and fiercely battled his way through one strike, six fouls, and two balls to a nice double that scored Cortes and Gasper to put the East ahead 4-3. Shaw then brought in Curry with a sacrifice shot for an insurance run, with the score 5-3 in East's favor at the top of the seventh.
On the mound at the bottom of the frame was Chatham's Jack DeGroat, who had an impressive outing, retiring the West side 1-2-3 with a swinging strikeout by Zach Kone (Cotuit), a popup by Grant Williams (Bourne), and a fly out from Robert Neustrom (Hyannis).
From then on it came down to pitching prowess as East's Brendan Nail (Y-D), Robert Broom (Brewster), and Riley McCauley worked to secure victory. Earning the win was Ryan Rolison of the Firebirds, with McCauley earning the save.
At bat, Shaw went 1-for-2 with one run and one RBI, with Herron named the East MVP, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs, including the game winner.
“It's a pretty cool honor. To be able to bring that home is nice,” said Herron who added that representing the Firebirds in the All-Star Game was an honor. “The Firebirds is a great organization and to be able to wear that jersey tonight with all the other teams is really nice, and I just tried to represent what we do in Orleans the best I can.”
Shaw said that for him, the game meant the chance to play with some of the best ball players in the league, a singular experience and one he won't soon forget.
“It's a special opportunity, the chance to play with all these guys,” he said, adding that representing Chatham further enriched the event.
Cobie Vance, who represented the Harwich Mariners, was proud to carry on the long legacy of Mariners in the All-Star Game.
“It's a huge honor just to put this jersey on every day and play on the Cape, and to represent them in the Cape League All-Star Game is just a bigger honor,” he said. “To continue that legacy of Harwich players in this game is awesome.”
Prior to the start of the big game came the annual Home Run Hitting Contest, featuring some of the heaviest hitters in the league. Stepping up to the plate for the East were Chandler Taylor of the Brewster Whitecaps, and Stephen Scott and Romy Gonzalez of the Orleans Firebirds, while Jake Anchia of Wareham, Marty Bechina of Falmouth and Greyson Jenista of Cotuit represented the West.
In the end it was Scott who reigned supreme, hitting six homers in the first round and another three in the second, including one that soared over the 412-feet sign in Spillane's center field, much to the delight of the crowd, estimated to be around 7,000 fans.
Scott was presented with a commemorative Barnstable Bat for his victory.
In a special pre-game surprise, Cape League Commissioner Paul Galop tapped longtime Chatham manager John Schiffner to throw out the first pitch in honor of his last season with the team. Schiffner was moved by the gesture and threw a stellar pitch straight into the waiting glove of friend and fellow coach, the Harwich Mariners' Steve Englert.
Schiffner said the moment was truly memorable.
“I was flattered. That's not me. I don't handle things like that very well, and that was very, very nice,” he said. “I'll always remember that.”
He said the annual All-Star Game would be something he'd look back on fondly.
“I'm going to miss it terribly. It's the best day of the summer,” he said. “There's no pressure. Everybody's having a great time. You get an opportunity to talk to your buddies the coaches, that you haven't seen since the first manager's meeting, and you get a chance to meet the kids you've been competing against all summer. I'll miss that very, very much. It's a special day.”