POWDER SPRINGS — Team Gwinnett found runs easy to come by in the early innings of the Fourth Annual Cobb-Gwinnett All-Star Baseball Game.
But after scoring six times in the first two innings, Team Cobb was able to shut the door, and got big innings of its own with three runs in the third and five more in the fifth, en route to a 9-6 victory Tuesday night at Hillgrove High School.
Allatoona’s Brett Blomquist was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after going 2-for-2, including hitting a two-run home run that capped the five-run fifth that vaulted Team Cobb into the lead for good.
“We came out ready to play,” said Team Gwinnett coach Chad Longe. “Tip your hat to Cobb. They never gave up. They battled back with three (in the third), and then they had that long inning (in the fifth). We had baserunners (all evening). We just couldn’t get the big hit.”
Team Gwinnett left left 13 baserunners stranded on the evening, including two runners in five different innings.
But it got off to a strong start with a two-run single by North Gwinnett’s Josh Shuler in the top of the first before taking advantage of four Cobb errors and an RBI single by Shuler’s fellow Bulldog Corey Collins to take a 6-0 lead through the first two innings.
However, Cobb chipped into that lead with two outs an nobody on in the top of the third, when Walton’s Jared Jones and North Cobb’s Harry Ford hit back-to-back doubles, following a two-run homer by Walker’s Gino Groover that cut Team Gwinnett’s lead in half at 6-3.
Two innings later, Team Cobb strung together five hits, including a two-run single by Jared Jones and Blomquist’s two-run blast to turned the game around at 8-6.
With the lead at 9-6 after an RBI fielder’s choice by Walton’s Ben Anderson in the sixth, Team Gwinnett by putting the leadoff runners on base in three of the final four innings, only to come up empty.
The best chance came in the top of the ninth, when Wesleyan freshman Druw Jones was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, followed by an infield hit by Archer’s Trey Messer and a single by Mountain View’s Kenny Mallory to load the bases with nobody out.
But North Cobb Christian’s Aidan Moza got Hebron Christian’s Jackson Boyd to bounce to third, with Hillgrove’s Trace Cate get the force at the plate for the first out of the inning.
Then, Wesleyan’s Charlie Taylor send a pop up behind the bag at second base that resulted in an automatic out on the infield fly rule.
Ben Anderson actually dropped the ball, but quickly recovered and alertly completed a double play by recording the final out of the game at second base.
Despite the loss, a good time was had by all, not only at the game, but also at the All-Star dinner and awards ceremony on Sunday at TPC Sugarloaf.
For many of the players, it was also a welcome fun respite from what will be a busy summer of travel ball and other activities — some more than others.
“I actually had a (travel ball) game (Tuesday) morning,” said Shuler, who finished the game 2-for-2 with a walk, two RBIs and three stolen bases to lead the Team Gwinnett offense. “I fly our to Arizona (for a showcase event on June) the 10th, and then I fly out (with Collins) straight to IMG Academy (in Bradenton, Fla., for the Team USA Team Development Pipeline camp). So it’s good getting a fun game in like this with everything not being so serious. We can just play loose and have fun.”
In addition to Shuler and Collins (2-for-3, RBI), other standouts for Team Gwinnett included Providence Christian’s Ben Johnson, who had a triple at the plate and retired all four hitters he faced over 1 1/3 innings on the mound, Druw Jones, who had a double and reached base all four of his plate appearances and also threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, Greater Atlanta Christian’s Primin Brechbuhl, who had a double, and his Spartans teammate Dawson Hamilton, who struck out the side in his only inning of work.