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Southern Division wins Carolina League All-Star Game

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Carolina catcher Max McDowell, top, playing for the Southern Division, digs for third base and eyes third base coach Edwin Maysonet on Tuesday while advancing from first base on a hit by Luis Alexander Basabe during the Carolina League All-Star Classic at Five County Stadium in Zebulon.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ZEBULON — They sat at long, brown tables on the concourse at Five County Stadium. Nearly 50 Carolina League All-Stars in all, signed autographs and shared stories as fans gathered on Tuesday to interact with future stars.

And in a league where starting pitching has presided over the first half of the season, the bats took over in this version of the Carolina League All-Star game.

Players like Ryan McKenna and his stratospheric batting average showed off some early power. Leody Taveras, Major League Baseball’s 29th-rated prospect gliding around center field, had an early chance for a putout at the plate. Joel Booker, a hot bat in the White Sox’s system, smacked the ball all over the field.

Top baseball talents from around the East Coast descended on Five County Stadium for the Carolina League All-Star game, one that the Southern Division hung on to win 7-6 in front of 3,628, after gaining a lead it needed to wrestle from an upstart Northern Division that scored three runs in the top half of the first.

McKenna, who owns a league-best .377 average, opened the game with a double, and came around to score on a sacrifice fly.

The Southern All-Stars scored its first run when leadoff hitter Joel Booker hit a towering home run to left field on the first pitch of the at-bat. Booker went on to collect four RBI in a three-hit effort. He was named game MVP. 

Buies Creek outfielder Ronnie Dawson gave Southern its first lead of the game in the sixth at 5-4 with a run-scoring, two-out ground-rule double to left. Booker batted in two more runs before the inning ended to push the lead to 7-4.

Carolina’s all-star selections were well represented, with each making an impact in the game.

Max McDowell, the Carolina catcher, added to his ever-growing tally of putouts when he tossed out a baserunner trying to advance to second base in the top of the second inning. McDowell leads all minor league catchers with 34 runners caught stealing, while only 27 have successfully advanced for an impressive 56 percent caught-stealing rate.

McDowell also swiped a bag and scored a run. He caught the first five innings, and was able to work with a pair of teammates before being relieved by Myrtle Beach’s Jhonny Pereda in the sixth.

McDowell caught for Southern starter and Mudcats teammate Cam Roegner. The Carolina League’s leader in ERA allowed three first-inning runs. Winston-Salem’s Dylan Cease took over in the second. Marcos Diplan, a Carolina starter and the only Mudcats player on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, pitched the fifth inning where he recorded a pair of strikeouts and issued one walk.

Tucker Neuhaus, an infielder for the Mudcats, made a slick play in the field to end the top half of the fourth. Neuhaus made a diving stop moving to his left, hopped up and threw out the runner at first to end the inning.

The Carolina League and California League each won nine of the past 18 Classics. The two leagues began playing each other almost annually since 1996, with last year’s game being the first of the all-Carolina League game.

The Northern Division won, 2-0, last season.

Tuesday’s game marked the third time the Mudcats hosted an All-Star Game at Five County Stadium since the team moved to Zebulon in 1991, though just the first Carolina League installment. Playing in the Southern League, the last ASG Carolina hosted was in 2008, and before that in 1997 where the Southern League All-Stars played against the Seattle Mariners.

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