News and Notes from Mobile

MOBILE, Ala. – The Northern Division all-stars routed those of the Southern Division 12-5 in this year's Southern League All-Star Game at Hank Aaron Stadium on Wednesday night.

Mobile's Mike Thompson and Huntsville's Dana Eveland were both starters for their respective divisions, and each team pitched two scoreless innings to open the game. For the first two innings, it appeared the crowd of 5,587 may be treated to a pitcher's duel.

Such was not the case.

In the top of the third, Carolina's Jason Hill recorded the game's first hit on a single to center that moved Chattanooga's Jeff Bannon over to third. Incidentally, Bannon was the only player from either roster to be greeted by a heckler all throughout the night. The Southern Division did not record a hit until the seventh inning when Birmingham's Chris Stewart tripled to lead things off.

In his first at-bat of the night, West Tenn's Buck Coats hit a sharp come-backer to Mississippi pitcher Chuck James that resulted in a 1-6-3 double play with runners at first and third. Coats was ruled out at first on a bang-bang call by first base umpire Brian Kennedy.

It would not be the only time the umpires would become a footnote in Wednesday's affairs.

With one out in the eighth inning, time was called and a delay of over 10 minutes pursued when home plate umpire Garrett Watson had to exit the field. Watson was suffering from stomach pains apparently brought on from excessive heat and humidity at the ballpark.

"That explains some of the calls," noted Jeffrey Shipman, father of West Tenn pitcher Andrew Shipman.

Watson was often seen tending to a wet rag in between half-innings.

And for as much flak as he takes about his defense, it was Coats who made several fine plays with the glove, outshining opposing shortstop Joel Guzman from Jacksonville.

In fact, Coats and Guzman seemed to have a private, unscripted, one-on-one battle going throughout the night.

In his second plate appearance, Coats reached base when a routine grounder to short went straight through Guzman's legs and into left field. It would eventually lead to four runs, as top Marlins prospect Jeremy Hermida of Carolina, the game's eventual MVP, hit a bases-clearing three-run double.

Hermida, who finished 3-for-5 on the night, just missed a grand slam as a line drive rocket ricocheted off the top part of the wall in left-center.

For his part, Guzman would later sail a throw over Birmingham first baseman Casey Rogowski's head in the sixth inning. The Dodger prospect was not charged with an error, however.

Both Coats and Guzman continued their unofficial battle in the bottom of the fifth when the Jaxx shortstop made the game's finest play defensively. With two out and the bases empty, Coats leaped and snared a scorching line drive off the bat of Guzman that was destined for left field. Guzman went on to finish 0-for-4.

Everything didn't go exactly mistake free for Coats, however. The Fort Benning, Ga., native committed an error on a grounder to his left by Jacksonville's Delwyn Young in the seventh inning. The South would go on to score three of their five runs in the inning, thanks in large part to a two-run homer by Rogowski—his only hit of the night.

Coats later picked up his second hit of the night off the glove of Guzman for the North's 10th hit and seventh run.

Tennessee's Casey Daigle pitched the bottom of the eighth and gave up two hits in his one inning of work. He remained true to all of the hype surrounding him and appeared to resemble a major league pitcher the most.

Daigle went to the rosin bag on numerous occasions and often shook off calls from his catcher (Chattanooga's Brian Peterson) while keeping close tabs on baserunners. It was a trend few pitchers imitated to Daigle's degree throughout the night.

The South plated five more runs in the ninth, as Casey McGehee netted the division's only home run, a three-run blast off Mobile's Dale Thayer to the opposite field in right center. McGehee finished the night with the one hit, but sprayed many sharply-hit line drives all over the stadium in previous at-bats.

McGehee also started at first base, a rarity for the usual third baseman.

"I don't feel really comfortable over there, but I've done it enough to where I have some comfort level," McGehee said. "I'm not completely out of position."

Getting a hit off Thayer was no small task, either.

"I was just so surprised that I made contact off of him," said the 10th round pick from Fresno State in 2003. "In two years, I don't think I'd touched a ball off of him. I was more surprised than anything."

The previously noted Andrew Shipman closed out the game in the ninth. Shipman allowed two runs and two hits. The right-hander has been used in more ninth-inning situations as of late on manager Bobby Dickerson's Diamond Jaxx club.

Diamondbacks prospect Jesus Cota started at DH for the South and picked up a hit in his final at-bat to finish 1-for-5. He doubled off Thayer ahead of McGehee's home run for his only hit of the night.

Entering the day, Cota wasn't sure exactly where'd he be in the lineup; he just knew that it would be in a starting role under manager Tony Perezchica.

"With Tony being my manager, we talked it over and he said I was either going to start at first base the whole game or DH the whole game," Cota said. "So he kind of gave me that option. I just told him I wanted to DH."

Not only was Perezchica the manager of this year's Northern Division all-stars, he's also Cota's manager at Tennessee. Cota was one of five Smokies players named to this year's squad, joining Daigle, Enrique Gonzalez, Dan Uggla, and Mike Schultz.

"It was a great experience," Cota said. "We were just out there to have a good time and enjoy ourselves. You just go out and try to do your best."

Tony Gwynn, Jr. of the Huntsville Stars drove in the game's first run on an RBI single to left. Gwynn's father was on hand for the event and sat directly behind home plate. He was asked if he remembered his lone season on the Double-A circuit in 1981.

"Thanks for making me feel old," Gwynn said.

Also on hand was Detroit Tigers outfielder Dmitri Young, the brother of starting right fielder and highly touted Devil Rays prospect Delmon Young of the Southern Division Montgomery Biscuits.

The eldest of the two sat in the media-assigned section of the ballpark above home plate, drinking Bud Light before eventually joining New Orleans Saints cheerleaders on the field.

A camera crew from Fox Sports Net Detroit accompanied Young to the stadium. Both brothers will be featured in a new FSN special titled "The Youngs and the Restless."

Younger brother Delmon went 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

West Tenn pitcher Ricky Nolasco was originally scheduled to start for the Northern Division, but was held back by Cubs officials. Nolasco last pitched on Sunday at Carolina and says the decision was just precautionary.

"I had to miss a start early on in the year because of a little pain in my shoulder," Nolasco said. "They just wanted to take the safe side and make sure I get my proper day's rest."

Nolasco is 8-0 with a 2.64 ERA in 17 starts with the Diamond Jaxx. His next scheduled start is set for Saturday against Mississippi. The second half of league play begins Friday.

All throughout the night, the biggest cheers from the crowd came during DH Ronnie Merrill's trips to the batting box. The hometown BayBears favorite drew even louder applauses than OF Paul McAnulty, who won this year's home run derby earlier in the evening.

Hall of Famer Hank Aaron threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Aaron also autographed balls for the players and spoke to them at an exclusive luncheon earlier in the day. Country music group Trick Pony performed live after the game and led the crowd in both the singing of the seventh inning stretch and the national anthem.


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