Saturday night found the masses of participants at the BaseballHQ Arizona First Pitch attending the AFL Rising Stars game (link to box), a contest showcasing many of the best young prospects in the game, pitting East and West teams.
Of course the player we all wanted to see--Billy Hamilton--led off the game for the West with a walk, stole second, and then nabbed third when he caught Phillies catcher Tommy Joseph sleeping behind the dish after receiving a Jared Cosart pitch.
Two batters later right fielder Rymer Liriano doubled for his first hit of three that evening, driving Hamilton home, and Liriano then scored as well on a Hunter Morris sacrifice foul to East third sacker Kaleb Cowart who did go into the stands to make a fine catch. The problem was Cowart then sort of lost consciousness, allowing Liriano to indeed tag from second base and advance to the plate in one of the stranger plays in recent memory.
However, the heroics then shifted to the East as left fielder Brian Goodwin led off the bottom of the inning with a serious big fly off Kyle Gibson, and from then the game was cat-and-mouse until the East jumped all over Twins right hander Michael Tonkin for five straight hits and four runs including a double to Goodwin that plated the two final East squad runs. That set the score at 9-4 which held until the final out was recorded by Heath Hembree four innings later.
Hamilton may have been the poster boy, but Goodwin was the star, and interestingly enough the pair tangled in the fourth when the hitter drove the ball to the deepest part of center field, only to be defeated by the speedy Hamilton diving and extending in what Brian Walton determined was "Edmondsonian" fashion to steal a likely triple from Goodwin.
Other hitting highlights included a pair of singles by Nick Castellanos, a deep three base hit from Yankees catcher Austin Romine who scored a pair of runs and a pretty line drive single by the Giants Gary Brown.
As you might guess from a game with 13 runs, 21 hits, and three errors pitching was spotty, although Chase Anderson of the Diamondbacks completed a pair of shutout innings whiffing four while allowing a pair of hits, and touted hurler James Paxton tossed a shutout third inning, though he allowed a couple of hits and a walk meaning he had to work to get out of the jam.
But, once the starting pitchers were done with their work, virtually no remaining reliever faced more than a couple of batters before being replaced, making it tough to truly assess their skills and stuff.
In the end Hamilton, Liriano, and Goodwin owned the evening, and in a league that again has not really delivered an arm that really looked special, that is probably how it should be.