After a great start to the 2016 season, the Lynchburg Hillcats had six different players selected for spots on the Carolina League All-Star team. Each of the six men made contributions in the All-Star game on Tuesday from Lake Elsinore, California, as the Carolina League defeated the California League by a 6-4 score.
The Carolina League team was the visiting team and got a run in the first manufactured heavily by the Hillcats own (and southern California native) Greg Allen. Playing center field in the game and batting leadoff, he drew a walk against Chris Huffman and proceeded to steal both second and third bases before scoring two batters later on a sacrifice fly from Mauricio Dubon of Salem.
“You just try to be aggressive,” said Allen after the game in a story on MiLB.com. “You try to take the opportunity when it’s presented to you. Luckily, [Huffman] wasn’t exceptionally quick to the plate, which gave me a chance to try to steal some bags, and I was fortunate enough to have it work out.”
Lynchburg’s Julian Merryweather earned the starting nod in the game and did not disappoint, striking out Bobby Boyd for the first out of the bottom of the first. He got a lineout to Allen for the second out and a liner to left to end his only inning on the mound.
After striking out to end the first, Bobby Bradley made up for it in the fourth, homering to right-center field off of Ryan Castellani to make it a 2-0 game. It would prove to be a big early run as the California League team would score a run in the bottom of the inning to make it a 2-1 game.
Teammate Merryweather made a claim that his homer in the game “might be the best one all year”, but Bradley was less convinced.
“That very well could be the case,” he shared in the same MiLB story. “I don’t really know how far it went or how far my other ones went, but that could very well be the case.”
The Carolina League added to their advantage with a big response inning in the road half of the fifth. With one out, Allen singled to second and scored on a triple from Andrew Stevenson (Potomac). He would score on a single from Dubon to make it a 4-1 game. Bradley would line out to second for the second out.
Hillcats starter Justus Sheffield and his battery mate Daniel Salters both entered the game in the bottom of the sixth. The leadoff man singled off of Sheffield, but was caught stealing by Salters. The second man up walked, and similarly was erased by Salters again. A flyout to Allen closed the inning of work for Sheffield.
Allen reached in the seventh, grounding into a force but reaching safely. He scored on another triple from Stevenson to make it 5-1. The last of the Hillcats to enter the game, Yu-Cheng Chang, pinch-hit for Dubon and delivered an RBI-single. Bradley followed with his second strikeout of the game before Chang was forced out at second on a grounder to end the inning.
Allen was 1-for-4 on the game with a single, a walk, two strikeouts, and three runs scored.
Bradley struck out twice, but had a solo homer in four trips.
Salters singled in his only plate appearance in the eighth and threw out a pair of base runners. Chang was 1-for-2 with an RBI single and a strikeout.
Merryweather was credited with the win, throwing a scoreless inning to start the game while striking out one. Sheffield earned a hold, despite giving up a single and a walk in his scoreless inning of work.
“That’s what it’s all about, going out there and enjoy the game,” shared Merryweather after the game in a story on MiLB.com. “It’s a great honor to be out there, so it was nice to get a good outing.”
Over the break, Chang and Bradley both participated in the Midway Classic Home Run Derby in San Diego, held on the deck of the USS Midway. Chang was eliminated in the first round, 5-3, by Aderlin Rodriguez of the Frederick Keys. Bradley defeated Drew Ward of the Potomac Nationals in the first round, 6-3, but fell to Rodriguez, 6-5, in the semi-finals. Rodriguez would lose to Bakersfield first baseman Kyle Petty, 8-4.
Bradley, who led the Carolina League with 15 home runs at the All-Star break, enjoyed the tournament, which consisted of hitting homers from the bow of the USS Midway into the water. Balls had to clear specific markers on the water to be considered home runs.
“It was a ton of fun. Just a great experience,” said Bradley about the contest on Monday in a story on MiLB.com. “It was my first time ever hitting a ball off a boat in general, so I was just having a lot of fun with it.”
Play resumes in the Carolina League on Thursday, when the Hillcats will host the Potomac Nationals at Calvin Falwell Field at City Stadium at 6:30 PM ET.
Photo: Fernando Gutierrez, Jr./MiLB.com