07/13/2022 10:33 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 12, 2022 – In a league where the vast majority of games have been tightly contested this season, it seemed only fitting that the 2022 Northern League All-Star Game would require extra innings to determine a victor.
The East rallied to edge the West 5-4 in 10 innings as the winning run scored on a walk-off error after a ball hit to short by Doug Loden (Oakland / St. John, Ind.) of the Lake County Corn Dogs.
“If you look at the standings, you wouldn’t think games would be so close, but the parity from top to bottom in the league is really tight,” East manager Adam Enright said. “It’s fitting that it was a close, well-played game here tonight.”
Loden was named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player following the contest as he ripped a double to left and drilled a long home run to right to account for half of the four hits by the East. He was also hit by a pitch and hit the ground ball that led to the game-winning run.
“It’s a great honor to win the MVP award,” Loden said. “I really respect this league; it’s getting better and better each year. It’s great baseball. It’s nice to be at home in the summer when you’re going away for college and play competitive baseball.”
The West team received quality pitching throughout the day as the East prevailed despite being outhit 11-4. The West more than held its own despite being comprised of players from the three teams that entered the All-Star Game as the bottom three in the league standings.
“The environment was great,” West manager Joe Silva said. “Be loose, have fun and showcase your talents was the main message that all of the coaches had for the guys today, and they did just that. They did an awesome job. Regardless of what the standings say, it’s a pretty balanced league, and these 10 innings of baseball really exemplified that. There are great players on every single team, and this was a great experience for our guys and everyone involved in the Northern League.”
The East jumped in front with two in the first including one manufactured by Peter Fusek (Milwaukee Tech / Chicago, Ill.), who singled, stole second, stole third and scored on a throwing error by the catcher. Each team scored a fourth-inning run with Max Bullock (Moraine Valley / Chicago, Ill.) singling home a tally in the top of the inning before Loden launched the monster home run in the bottom of the frame.
“He threw me a changeup first pitch,” Loden said. “It faded away for a ball. Kids know who I am, so I know I’m not going to get many first-pitch fastballs. He got down 2-0, and then I fouled another one off. As a hitter, you always sit fastball and adjust. I was sitting fastball and he threw me one, and I put a good swing on it and it went.”
A sac fly in the top of the sixth made it 4-1 West, but the East responded in the bottom of the inning as Loden doubled home a run and eventually came around to score to make it 4-3.
In the seventh inning, the East had the potential tying run at third and go-ahead run at second, but the potential tying run tried to score on a ball that got away from the catcher and was cut down at the plate on a 2-1 putout to retire the side and keep the West clinging to the one-run edge.
The East tied it as Cal Curiel (Grace College / Crown Point, Ind.) singled on a flair to right with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. That set the stage for the sixth walk-off win by the home team at Oil City Stadium this season (five by the Northwest Indiana Oilmen before this one by the Northern League East All-Stars).
“I think you saw the competitive juices kick in a little bit,” Enright said. “You saw it on the Curiel hit and that whole inning leading up to it. You saw it on the play at the plate. When games are close, everybody wants to win.”
The league will return to action on Wednesday as the second half of the season gets underway.