READING, Pa. – Trenton Thunder second baseman Kevin Mahoney found out along with the other 9,000 people jammed into FirstEnergy Stadium just before 10 p.m. Wednesday — the Eastern League All-Star game would end after nine innings regardless of the tie on the scoreboard.
“It kind of stinks,” he said.
The ending, of course, didn’t.
Mahoney, who hadn’t played in five weeks because of an injury, slapped a key two-out ninth-inning single, keeping alive a rally that Binghamton’s Eric Campbell soon ended with a walk-off single to give the Eastern Division a dramatic 5-4 victory.
Reading shortstop Troy Hanzawa started the rally with a stirring 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a two-out walk. He went to third on Mahoney’s single and scored when Campbell slapped the winner through the left side of the infield.
“We didn’t come here to tie the ballgame,” said New Hampshire’s Mike McDade, who went 4 for 4 and was on deck when the game ended. “We just wanted to get the win. The guys did good.”
No one, Mahoney said, wanted to see the game end without a winner.
“You don’t want an All-Star game ending in a tie,” he said. “That’s never fun, so we kind of got pumped up in that last inning and were able to come through.”
Bowie’s Pedro Viola retired the first two East batters of the ninth before West Manager Dave Machemer, wanting to get all his players in the game, replaced him with Harrisburg’s Hector Nelo.
Nelo didn’t get anyone out despite seemingly overpowering Hanzawa. Reading’s top clutch hitter fouled off five pitches before finally walking.
That stirred something on the East bench.
“Hanzawa had a great at-bat,” said Portland outfielder Bryce Brentz. “He really got the momentum going. He gave Eric a chance to do his job, and he did it.”
Brentz started in right field and went 0 for 4, striking out twice.
Sea Dogs reliever Aaron Kurcz was impressive, entering in the fourth and retiring all five batters. He struck out two.
Those were the only Portland players in the game.
The West tied it 4-4 in the sixth when Erie’s Jordan Lennerton’s hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Harrisburg’s Jeff Kobernus. The Senators’ second baseman had singled and advanced to third on a single by Holt.
The East got a break to take a 4-3 lead in the fifth. After Campbell stroked a one-out double to left, McDade hit a pop-up between first and home. Catcher Ramon Cabrera of Altoona and Lennerton, playing first, converged, but the ball went off Cabrera’s glove and McDade had a single. Binghamton’s Jeffrey Marte followed with a sacrifice fly to right, snapping the 3-3 tie.
The East went up 3-1 in the third with two hometown Phillies in the middle of the two-run rally.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez slapped a one-out single to left and teammate Darin Ruf slammed a fierce double off the left-field fence.
Hernandez scored on McDade’s ground single through the box. Ruf held at third on McDade’s hit, but scored when Mark Sobolewski of New Hampshire grounded to short.
McDade was headed for an MVP award before Campbell stole it from him with the winning hit.
“I’m not surprised Campbell came through at the end,” he said. “He’s been killing us all year. That’s a great job what he did today.”