SAL All-Star Game: Pitching Shines, Late Offense Fuels the North

Doran Turchin celebrating his three-run double at the SAL All-Star Game. Photo credit Jim Zele, @ZelePhotography on Twitter

On a night showcasing the finest talent in the South Atlantic League, the pitchers stole the show early, while the offense closed out the night.

This year’s game took place at Appalachian Power Park, home of the West Virginia Power. Located in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, the young park provides great views and amenities for fans hoping to take in a game.

The festivities began with the home run derby, where Hickory’s Curtis Terry (Rangers #43) stole the show. Terry hit 16 home runs in the first round, and closed the competition with 14 in the championship round, overcoming strong efforts from Charleston’s Brandon Lockridge and Greensboro’s Mason Martin (Pirates #27) and Rodolfo Castro (Pirates #43). Martin finished the first half with the SAL lead in home runs with 16, and Terry came in a close second with 15. While all participants displayed exceptional power, Terry’s effort was incredible. Over the years, certain sluggers have “the sound” when the ball leaves the bat. Manny Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion come to mind. Terry’s first half numbers align with that of a classic DH/1B player, with a slash line of .263/.328/.560. If Terry can continue developing as a hitter and maintain similar numbers going forward, the power is there to potentially succeed as a Major League slugger.

Moving on to the game, the pitchers stole the show for the first half. Delmarva’s Grayson Rodriguez (Orioles #5) continued his dominant first half with a scoreless first inning to open the game for the North. Charleston’s Canaan Smith (Yankees #28) provided the only offense with a two-out hit, but Rodriguez retired the next batter to escape without damage.

This trend continued for four-and-one-half more innings. North pitchers continued their dominance with West Virginia’s Bryan Pall, Hickory’s Yerry Rodriguez (Rangers #31) and Delmarva’s Drew Rom (Orioles #40) and Zach Matson all turning in scoreless innings. The only offense came from Lexington’s Michael Gigliotti (Royals #13), who hit a two-out double in the third but was stranded at second.

Not to be outdone, the South pitchers matched the North. Lexington’s Austin Cox (Royals #40) started the game with three groundouts. Augusta’s Seth Corry (Giants #27), Asheville’s Alexander Martinez, Greenville’s Logan Browning and Asheville’s Jake Bird all contributed scoreless innings as well. Browning found himself in trouble in the fourth, loading the bases after singles from Castro, Hickory’s Jonathan Ornelas (Rangers #10) and Hagerstown’s Gilbert Lara (Nationals #50), but he induced a groundout from Hagerstown’s Jacob Rhinesmith to escape trouble.

The South started the scoring in the top of the sixth. Columbia’s Ronny Mauricio (Mets #4) started the inning with a double. Brandon Lockridge then came up and ripped a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall to stake the South to a 2-0 lead.

Both players have been impressive in the SAL this year. Mauricio is a known entity. Tuesday was my first time seeing him play in person, but everything I heard has held true. Mauricio looks smooth at bat and in the field. Mauricio does not profile as a slugger, and it would be great to see him cut down on his K/BB rate and improving his OBP as he progresses toward New York. The upside is that Mauricio turned 18 in April. He has plenty of time to continue building his skills as he moves toward New York.

Lockridge is a lesser-known entity who has put in a strong first half. The Yankees 2018 fifth round pick out of Troy University had excellent numbers in the GCL last year, but he struggled in limited time with Staten Island. He has bounced back this year with a .248/.314/.453 line in the first half. The slugging percentage and home run total (10 in the first half) have been highlights, considering Lockridge is Charleston’s leadoff hitter. He added 13 stolen bases, compared with three in 2018. While he may not have one plus-plus skill, Lockridge does many things well and can contribute as a valuable outfielder going forward.

Returning to the game, the North answered in the bottom of the sixth. Castro reached base on a walk to start the inning, and Terry singled him to second two outs later. Pedro Gonzalez (Rangers #24) then sent a ball up the middle for a single, scoring Castro, moving Terry to second and cutting the South’s lead to 2-1. Rome’s Jose Montilla then came on to record the final out of the inning.

The North brought the offensive heroics after a silent seventh inning. Castro walked and Ornelas singled to start the inning. Terry grounded out, moving Castro and Ornelas to third and second, respectively. Lara then struck out swinging, but the third strike got away from Lexington catcher Freddy Fermin, allowing Castro to score and Lara to safely reach first base. Gonzalez then singled to load the bases, bringing Delmarva’s Doran Turchin to the plate. Turchin rose to the occasion, lining a double to left-center field and scoring Ornelas, Lara and Gonzalez to score.

After Turchin’s double, Greensboro’s Lolo Sanchez (Pirates #8) provided offense and comedy. Sanchez ripped a line drive to left field. The ball was headed for the seats before sinking and striking the left field wall just below the yellow line. Sanchez watched his blast, bat held high, as he walked down the first base line. Once the ball struck and stayed in play, Sanchez took off around first base to many of his teammates yelling “Corre! Corre! (Run! Run!)” Sanchez reached second safely, and Turchin crossed the plate to make the score 6-2 North.

Kannapolis’s Johan Domiguez came on in the top of the ninth to quietly retire the first two batters. West Virginia Manager Dave Berg, commanding the North, then brought in West Virginia’s Dayeison Arias to close out the game. After a few wild 98 mph fastballs and a walk to Fermin, Arias retired Charleston’s Mickey Gasper to close out the 6-2 victory for the North.

On a night for the stars to shine, many lesser-known prospects stepped up and made their names. Brilliant pitching performances, a big home run by Lockridge and a clutch double by Turchin highlighted the night. After a spate of promotions, the SAL rosters will be dramatically different as we settle in for the second half of an exciting season.

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