East beats West in 2015 Classic

Photo: Perfect Game

Kenny Bristow Jeff Dahn
Published: Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 Box Score | 2015 Event Blog

SAN DIEGO - The 13th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic is officially in the books with the East defeating the West by a score of 3-1. It was the East squad’s first win in four years and fifth overall in the series, which pits the top 50-plus high school players, as determined by Perfect Game, in a contest that has all the makings of a possible “Future’s Game.”

Before 6,123 fans in beautiful Petco Park, home of MLB’s San Diego Padres, in downtown San Diego, Calif., the East team drew first blood with a pair of runs in the fifth inning and held off a bases-loaded threat from the West in the bottom of the ninth to secure the victory.

It was an exciting win for the East squad, and a delight for the fans as they cheered both teams loudly during the final frame, which had a pair of stellar defensive plays from the East outfielders to thwart any chance of the win getting away.

One of those great plays was made by All-American Classic MVP Carlos Cortes.

This is great; nothing can beat this,” Cortes said. “I got to meet such a good group of guys, and I became a family with all of them. This is a true honor. These were the best of the best and there’s no one better.”

This was the best thing I’ve ever experienced,” Cortes said about attending the three-day festivities of the Classic. “I’m not going to lie, it’s a true honor to be here and to play with these kind of players, and it’s just unbelievable.”

Pitching was the story of the Classic early on, setting a tone that runs would be a premium. Through the first four innings of the game, the score was knotted at zero and both sides had a combined five hits, three for the East and two for the West.

None of those five base runners were a threat to score.

West starting pitcher Reggie Lawson got the game going from the bump, hitting 93 mph with his fastball, and showing good command by mixing in a mid-70s breaking ball. Even though he surrendered the game’s first hit to No. 2 hitter, Joe Rizzo, his teammates showed solid defense keeping Rizzo at first base.

Top pitching prospect, Jason Groome, used his mid-90s fastball – that peaked as high as 96 mph – a couple of 75 mph curveballs and an advanced changeup as the East starter, sitting down all three batters he faced.

Kevin Gowdy took the hill in the second inning for the West and gave up a single to Alex Kirilloff, but not before getting a strikeout. 
Austin Bergner finished off the second frame for the East with a pair of strikeouts while getting help with a perfect throw down to second base by catcher Mario Feliciano, nailing the West’s Avery Tuck, who had singled earlier.

Charles King pitched the third inning for the West and kept the East at bay hitting 92 mph with his fastball and getting a strikeout with a nasty changeup.

Zachary Hess, topping out at 94 mph with his fastball, mixed in several off-speed pitches to keep the West hitters off balance and recorded a 1-2-3 inning for the East.

The West’s Drake Fellows fought back from a walk and a single to start off the fourth by getting a strikeout and then a fly out to left fielder Jaren Shelby who fired a laser to second base doubling off Rizzo, who drew a walk.

Braxton Garrett, who earned the win for the East, got the first two outs in the bottom of the frame before giving up a single to Mickey Moniak. Moniak stole second and third base representing the game’s first scoring threat until Garrett got the West’s Shelby to strikeout on a 77 mph curveball.

A wild pitch and a big extra-base hit began to pay dividends for the East in the top of the fifth. With Ryan Zeferjahn on the bump for the West, and Alex Kirilloff standing at third after a leadoff single, a stolen base, and an advance on a fly out, Zeferjahn unleashed a curveball that bounced in the dirt scoring a head-first-sliding Kirilloff despite a close play at the plate. On the next pitch, Brandon McIlwain ripped a triple to the base of the outfield wall in center field. An infield error during the next at-bat scored McIlwain giving the East a 2-0 lead.

Tyler Baum took the mound for the East with the slight lead and mixed a low-90s fastball with an effective curve and changeup to keep the West off the scoreboard, even though Blake Rutherford chimed in with a booming double that bounced off the base of the wall in center field.

Karl Kauffman hurled a scoreless sixth, topping out at 93 mph with his fastball for the West, before teammate Ben Baird helped him out with a walk off the East’s Cole Ragans. The West notched its only run with the next batter. Walker Robbins blasted a triple of his own into the gap in right-center scoring Baird making it a one-run contest at 2-1.

The West’s Dion Henderson and his counterpart on the hill in the seventh, Ian Anderson for the East, earned two strikeouts apiece in a scoreless frame.

In the top of the eighth with Nick Lodolo on the mound, Feliciano was hit by a pitch with two outs. The next batter, Nolan Jones, hit the game’s third triple, scoring Feliciano putting the East within reach of its first win since 2010 with a 3-1 advantage. 
Anthony Locey pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth for the East, which went down quietly in the ninth failing to add any runs to a 3-1 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, with a save opportunity on the line, the East sent Joshua Lowe to the hill to secure the win, but it didn’t come without its nail-biting moments.

Lowe, hitting 92 mph with his fastball, gave up a single to the West’s Robbins. Game MVP Carlos Cortes then saved the inning from getting out of hand with a stellar defensive play in right field. Charging towards the infield for a shallow fly off the bat of Gavin Lux, Cortes avoided a collision with shortstop Grant Bodison and made the sliding catch.

After a walk to David Hamilton, Khalil Lee did his part to help Lowe with a diving grab on a shallow liner to left off the bat of the dangerous Moniak.

Lowe loaded the bases with a second base on balls before striking out Rutherford to end the game.

East coach Tim Held was pleased with the way his squad stayed tough at the end.

As the game got going and they got a couple of innings under their belt, they started to settle in to playing,” Held said. “And then the game got tight and to see how excited they were, this was a baseball game -- they were here showing their talents on the MLB Network -- and they wanted to win. That says a lot about them; that’s why they’re in the spot they're in.”

About an hour before the Classic’s first pitch, the semifinals and finals of the Home Run Challenge were held with two sluggers from each team squaring off. By the time the final round was complete, East Team lefthanded masher Alex Kirilloff from New Kensington, Pa., took home the championship trophy. Kirilloff went head-to-head against the West’s Blake Rutherford from Simi Valley, Calif. in the finals and Kirilloff launched six straight bombs with his last six swings to knock-off Rutherford by the final count of 12-11.

That was a blast, and watching them go out of big league stadium is even better; it’s something you always dream about,” Kirilloff said after the competition. “You just have to give glory to God for everything.”

The four finalists were all lefthanded swingers but weren’t the least bit intimidated by Petco’s deep right field dimensions. Kirilloff outslugged his East teammate Joe Rizzo from Oak Hill, Va., 11-9, in the semifinal round to reach the finals, while Rutherford out-blasted West teammate Ben Rortvedt from Verona, Wis., 10-6.

The more you do it the more you get comfortable with everyone watching,” Kirilloff said. “Being here I was feeling pretty comfortable and I was just able to hit the ball a long ways.”

When asked if he adjusted his swing at all in an exhibition compared to how he would swing in a game, Kirilloff smiled and said, “I take my home run swings, not my normal swings. You have to take some home run hacks during these things.”

Kirilloff, Rutherford, Rizzo and Rortvedt reached Sunday’s finals after blasting double-digit bombs in the first round of the Challenge held Saturday at the University of San Diego’s more hitter-friendly Fowler Park. Rizzo launched 14 moonshots while Rortvedt and Rutherford followed close behind with 13 each.

Kirilloff stroked 11, the same number as the West’s Cole Stobbe and the East’s Luis Curbelo, but then bested Stobbe and Curbelo in a 10-pitch homer-off to grab the fourth spot in the finals.

Perfect Game would like to congratulate all of the players for participating in the 2015 Perfect Game All-American Classic, which celebrated its 13th year as high school baseball's premier All-American all-star event.

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