By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
FORT MYERS — Riley Unroe had a chance to make his first professional All-Star experience truly memorable. For himself, for Stone Crabs teammates and coaches, and for the South Division team.
At the plate with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh inning, the Charlotte second baseman turned on a Tim Mayza pitch and roped it down the third-base line. Off the bat, the ball sounded like it was ticketed for extra bases.
That result would have been a tie game at least, and possibly the South’s first lead over the North. But Emilio Guerrero had Unroe played perfectly.
The Dunedin third baseman leaped to snare the line drive and fired it to first to double off Fort Myers’ Edgar Corcino and end the inning.
It was the last time the South threatened as the North Division team won the 2016 Florida State League All-Star game 1-0 at Fort Myers’ Hammond Stadium.
“It happened so fast,” Unroe said. “But (Guerrero) has some height over there. He had some distance on that. It was a great play.”
As you might expect in any All-Star game in the pitcher-friendly FSL, Saturday was a night for the men on the mound. Twenty-one combined hurlers pitched at least 2/3 of an inning for their respective teams, allowing just 11 total hits.
And while the South’s staff was good — seven hits, three walks, one error — the North’s was slightly better. Corcino’s seventh-inning single was the third of the four hits the South mustered, and outside of Mayza and Lakeland’s Tyler Alexander, no North pitcher allowed more than one baserunner in any inning.
Jupiter’s Dexter Kjerstad put the tying run on base against Daytona’s Esmerling De La Rosa with two outs in the ninth, but the right-hander got Corcino to ground out harmlessly to second to end the game.
“Everyone was just mowing everybody down,” said Charlotte closer Brian Miller, who worked around a two-out error to throw a scoreless fifth inning on fewer than 10 pitches for the South. “Just to go out there and be included in that group of pitchers is pretty cool.”
Miracle right-hander Yorman Landa was saddled with the loss in his home ballpark, allowing a run on two hits in the sixth. Brevard County catcher Dustin Houle finally broke the scoreless tie, following a leadoff double from Lakeland’s Christin Stewart with a two-out, run-scoring single.
“I thought the game was indicative of this league,” said Stone Crabs skipper Michael Johns, who managed the game alongside Charlotte pitching coach Steve “Doc” Watson and hitting coach Joe Szekely. “It’s just pitching dominant, and it has been the whole year.”
Unroe was one of a few players who played the whole night in the field, going 0-for-2 with a walk out of the nine-hole. Charlotte teammate Mac James started at first base and played five innings in the field, going 0-for-1 with a walk.
Right-hander Brent Honeywell and catcher Nick Ciuffo were voted in but couldn’t play due to injury. They made themselves useful in other ways: Honeywell as the ceremonial-first-pitch catcher and Ciuffo as the first base coach.
“I thought they represented themselves very well,” Johns said.
And while a win would’ve been nice, at the end of the day, it was about the experience for the four first-time All-Stars.
“It was so much fun,” Unroe said. “The group of guys we had — witty, fun, charming, they had it all. It was a great day, a great weekend. It was great to get to know all these guys, and I can’t wait to keep playing with them.”