PORTLAND — Brian Pointer didn’t participate in the Home Run Derby prior to Wednesday’s Eastern League All-Star Game, but he hit the most important homer during a long-ball competition. The derby before the nine-inning affair was expected, but the one that took place afterward was not.

After the game was tied 9-9 at the end of the scheduled nine innings, the game went to a never-before-seen in the Eastern League “Home Run Derby Shootout” to determine the winner, with both team’s exhausted of their pitchers. Pointer was the first, and only, player to clear the outfield wall, as he hit the game-winner on his fourth attempt in the 11th round to send the Eastern Division All-Stars to a 4-4 victory on tiebreaker at Hadlock Field.

“That was awesome. I don’t even know what to say right now. That was just pretty awesome,” said Pointer, a designated hitter from the Reading Fightin Phils. “Just seeing it going out, then ending this whole thing, a little bit of a saga here at the end. I’m pretty much speechless right now.”

Pointer was one of three players selected by East manager Billy McMillon to participate in the shootout, to go along with Reading teammate Brock Stassi and New Hampshire’s K.C. Hobson. The West trotted out Home Run Derby winner Dan Gamache from Altoona, Erie’s Dean Green and Richmond’s Ricky Oropesa.

Stassi was the first player to get close to sending one out, as he hit his second attempt off the right field wall. Oropesa hit one even higher off the wall on his second try.

Oropesa’s third attempt sent the West into celebration mode, only to find out that his blast went just wide of the right field foul pole. Then Pointer’s fourth try was well fair, and went far enough to finish off the game.

“I was a little doubtful how that was going to turn out, but the energy from the players, both sides were into it. I’m glad we came through in the end,” said McMillon, the manager of the hometown Sea Dogs. “It was a little nerve-wracking there, but I’m glad Pointer was able to get one that he could drive out.”

“This is my first all-star game, and to have a home run derby to walk it off, that’s pretty unusual and pretty cool,” said Pointer, who had nine home runs coming into the game.

It looked early on like the game wouldn’t need an unconventional tiebreaker, as the East got off to a hot start. Sea Dog shortstop Marco Hernandez led off the bottom of the first with a single, moved to third on a single by Binghamton’s Josh Rodriguez, then scored on a double-play grounder by the Sea Dog’s Jantzen Witte. Hernandez followed that up with a two-run home run in the second as the East went up 4-0.

Hernandez was named the All-Star Game MVP after going 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs.

“For me that’s awesome to be part of the All-Star Game,” said Hernandez. “Try to have fun here.”

Portland’s William Cuevas got the start on the mound and set the pace for the East, as he threw a 1-2-3 first inning. East pitchers scattered one run on six hits through the first six innings, capped off by a one-inning stint for Sea Dogs reliever Madison Younginer that started with a strikeout and ended with a double play after giving up a double.

The West made it a game in the seventh, however, as New Britain’s Austin House gave up a single, an RBI triple, and an RBI single to start, got a pair of outs on a sacrifice bunt and a grounder, then gave up another run after three straight walks. Portland’s Robby Scott came on with the bases loaded and cleaned up House’s mess by inducing an inning-ending grounder.

Pointer led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and stole second, but he was stranded there as Akron’s Jeff Johnson pitched out of the jam. Pointer’s hit was the first for the East since Hernandez’s homer in the second.

Neither team made much noise after that, as the East went six up, six down, and the West stranded a pair of walks in the top of the ninth.

Pointer then made enough noise at the end to send the Hadlock crowd home happy.

“We’re all competitors, and anytime you win, that’s what you’ve been going out there to do. To be around these guys, and just have as much as we had, and then come home with the win, that’s the icing on the cake,” said Younginer. “It was awesome. The crowd was tremendous. It was a lot of fun. They brought the energy to the stadium. It made it that much better for us.”

Sea Dogs save their best

It has been a tough season for the Sea Dogs and their home fans, as the team won just 12 games at home in the season’s first half. But the hometown players were able to put on a show for the Hadlock crowd, which had an official total of 7,368 fans.

“Marco killed it today. (Carlos) Asuaje made some good plays, and Witte did too. Robby went in there and threw one-plus. Cuevas started off the game hot. For all of us to go out there and have good days was a plus too, because we can all go with smiles tonight,” said Younginer.

“It was really good to see, for instance, Marco line drive first at bat, then hit a home run. Younginer did a really good job in his inning of work. We sent Robby out there to start another inning, he did a really good job. It was really a neat experience for them to do that in the All-Star Game at home,” said McMillon.

Home Run Derby

Gamache got hot when it counted in the home run derby, as he blasted four in the finals to beat Oropesa. Oropesa was the guy to beat after the first round, as he hit a round-high four homers. Gamache and Oropesa each hit two home runs in the second round to advance to the finals, knocking out Trenton’s Gary Sanchez and Bowie’s Rossmel Perez.

“It’s pretty exciting. I don’t really know what to feel like,” said Gamache, who had family and friends from his native Rhode Island in attendance.

Gamache hit just two home runs in the first round, and came into the competition with just five during the first half of the season.

“Just trying to hit it as far and as high as you can,” said Gamache. “The first round you kind of go up there and you’re swinging at everything, don’t really know what you’re doing, but got a little bit more comfortable as it went on.”

Eastern League leader Josh Rodriguez failed to hit one out in the first round, and Sea Dogs representative Jantzen Witte also came up short in clearing the outfield wall. Rodriguez knocked 13 homers during the first half of the season, while Witte had four heading into the All-Star break.

Entering in style

The starters for each team traversed through the crowd after entering the stands through the sky boxes. Players high-fived fans on their way down the stadium stairs on their way to the field. Included among the players making their way through the sea of fans were Sea Dogs Jantzen Witte and Marco Hernandez.

All in the family anthem

Kennedy McMillon, the daughter of the Sea Dogs manager, sang the national anthem during the pre-game ceremonies.

“She was probably a little nervous, but I don’t think you could tell. I thought she did a pretty good job,” McMillon said of his daughter, who is 14 years old.

Ready to rehab

Former Sea Dog and current Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart was in attendance at Hadlock Field. Swihart, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list for Boston, will begin a rehab assignment with the Sea Dogs when they travel to New Hampshire Thursday. But before that, he took the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch during the pre-game ceremonies. In a reversal of positions, Swihart threw to Sea Dogs pitcher Robby Scott. Swihart and Scott were teammates on the 2014 Sea Dogs team.

— Sports Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected]ournaltribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.



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