By Kevin Askeland
Eight innings of near perfection came to an end with a four-run rally in the ninth, allowing the East to steal a 4-2 victory from the West in the Aflac All-American Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday.
The East offense offered little resistance to an impressive lineup of West pitchers during the first eight innings as seven hurlers faced just five batters over the minimum, giving up just one hit while striking out 12.
Meanwhile the West built a 2-0 lead with a single run in the first inning and another in the fourth.
But it all began to unravel for the West in the ninth inning. Donovan Tate (Cartersville, Ga.) led off the inning by beating out a groundball for an infield hit.
Following a flyball out, Michael Zunino (Mariner, Caple Coral, Fla.) beat the throw to first for an infield hit to put runners at the corners. Austin Maddox (Eagle’s View Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.) then flew out to left field for the second out of the inning.
Richie Shaffer (Providence, Charlotte, N.C.) kept the inning alive by drawing a walk and loading the bases. A passed ball allowed Tate to score and put Zunino and Shaffer in scoring position with Brian Goodwin (Rocky Mount, N.C.) at the plate.
Prior to the ninth inning, Goodwin provided the only basehit of the game for the East when he hit a looper to centerfield. With two outs in the ninth, Goodwin came through with a basehit to left field that scored two runs and gave the East the lead.
Goodwin scored the final run moments later. After Keyvius Sampson (Ocala Forest, Fla.) walked, West pitcher Slade Heathcott (Texas, Texarkana, Texas) tried to pick him off at first base. The throw was wild, allowing Goodwin to score and Sampson to run to third base.
Heathcott was able to get the next runner to popup and end the inning.
Maddox, considered one of the top catchers in the country, finished of the West in the bottom of the ninth when he struck out Heathcott and Andrew Susac (Jesuit, Roseville, Calif.) and got Davidson to fly out to Goodwin in left field.
Goodwin was named the MVP of the game, going 2-for-4 with two RBI, a run scored and three putouts.
The West looked to be in complete control thanks to the combined presence on the mound. Jacob Turner (Westminster Christian Academy, St. Charles, Mo.) started the game and consistently hit 92 miles per hour with his fastball. After walking the first two batters, Turner struck out the next three and then struck out the first two of the second inning to tie an Aflac game record for strikeouts in a game.
Turner gave up a hit to Goodwin in the second, although it looked like West outfielder Kyrell Hudson (Evergreen, Vancouver, Wash.) appeared to make a diving catch. The second-base umpire ruled otherwise and Goodwin was able to advance to second on a hustle play during the confusion on the trap.
Turner got the next batter to fly out to left field and that started a string of 15 consecutive East batters that West pitchers sat down in order.
Brooke Pounders (Temecula Valley, Calif.) induced two flyball outs and a groundout while hitting 90 mph with his fastball. Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley, Mission Viejo, Calif.) threw the fourth inning and struck out two batters in retiring three in a row.
Matthew Purke (Klein, Spring, Texas) continued the streak with two strikeouts sandwiched around a groundout. Chad Thompson (El Toro, Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) threw the sixth inning and had a strikeout along with a groundout and a flyball out.
After Scott Griggs (San Ramon Valley, Calif.) got the first two outs of the seventh, including a strikeout, he walked two batters before getting a flyball out to end the inning.
Matt Graham (Oak Ridge, Spring, Texas) threw a perfect eighth inning with one strikeout, setting up the fateful ninth inning.
The West opened the scoring with a run in the first inning. With one out, David Nick (Cypress, Calif.) struck out, but sprinted safely to first when the ball got away from Maddox behind the plate.
After a walk to Jonathan Walsh (Coppell, Texas), Heathcott singled to left field and drove in Nick for the first run of the game.
Sampson started the second inning for the East and struck out the first two batters. Hudson of the West hit one into the gap between third and short, where East shortstop Mychal Givens, considered the top prospect in the class of 2009, made a diving stop, got up and whipped the ball to first base.
Hudson, one of the fastest players in the Aflac game, just beat out Givens’ throw for an infield single. However Hudson was thrown out by Maddox attempting to steal second when he over ran the bag allowing Givens to apply the tag.
Christopher Jenkins (Westfield, N.J.) reached 92 mph on his fastball in striking out two batters in a scoreless third inning, but the West was able to get to Daniel Tuttle (Randleman Senior, N.C.) in the fourth.
With one out, Max Stassi (Yuba City, Calif.) doubled to centerfield. Tate tried to make a diving catch on the play, but the ball bounced past him, allowing Stassi to coast into second.
Davidson followed with a double down the line in left field to score Stassi and give the West a 2-0 lead.
The West was unable to get anything going the rest of the way, going down in order in the fifth and sixth innings. Tuttle closed out the fourth with two strikeouts and Ethan Carter (Menchville, Newport News, Va.) followed with two strikeouts in the fifth. Michael Heller (Cardinal Mooney, Bradenton, Fla.) also set the West down in order and Ian Krol (Neuqua Valley, Naperville, Ill.) got two outs before giving up a walk to Jacob Morris (Coppell, Texas). The next batter flied out to end the inning.
Givens started on the mound in the eighth and retired Nick and Walsh on just two pitches. Nick flew out to left field and Walsh grounded out to Scooter Gennett (Sarasota, Fla.) at second base. Givens reached 90 mph on his fastball to Walsh.
Maddox replaced Givens and got Pounders to fly out, setting up the East’s rally in the top of the ninth.
Maddox threw the hardest pitch of the day, registering 94 mph on his fastball. Zach Wheeler (East Paulding, Dallas, Ga.) started for the East and hit 93 mph on at least three different pitches.