Granberg Leads South to Victory in 2017 WCL All-Star Game
YAKIMA, Wash. – Devlin Granberg of the Cowlitz Black Bears (Dallas Baptist) made himself comfortable at the plate at Yakima County Stadium when Cowlitz took two of three games from the Yakima Valley Pippins the week prior. He collected a pair of multiple-hit nights, and even hit a solo home run over the right field wall in the rubber game of the series on June 10. On Tuesday night, in front of a crowd of 2,012 at The Orchard for the West Coast League All-Star Game powered by Target Zero, Granberg stole the show, hitting two home runs en route to taking home MVP honors and leading the South to a 5-2 victory over the North Division All-Stars.
Granberg, who was the Black Bears’ lone participant in Monday’s home run derby and fell just short of making the second round made it clear early on that he wanted a little revenge. After Bend’s Derek Chapman (Washington State) singled in the bottom of the first, Granberg unloaded a monstrous two-run home run to straight-away center field past the 406-foot mark off of the North Division’s starter, Nick Bonniksen of Port Angeles (Dixie State), to give the South a 2-0 lead.
In the third, the North chopped the deficit in half, as Wenatchee’s Evan Johnson (Northern Colorado) singled in Kelowna’s Matt Bottcher (Illinois-Chicago), who had drawn a leadoff walk.
With the South on top 2-1 in the fourth inning, Granberg was at it again, this time leading off the bottom of the frame with a solo shot over the left field wall off of Wenatchee’s Collin Maier (Washington State) for his second home run of the night to give the South a 4-1 lead. The South All-Stars were not finished in the frame, however, as Steve Sordahl (St.Martin’s), playing in front of his home crowd in Yakima, delivered an RBI single to plate his Pippins’ teammate, Lucas Denney (Seattle), who had drawn a one out walk to give the South a 5-1 edge.
The North tried to come to life in the top of the seventh, when Nyquist singled in Bellingham’s Ernie Yake (Gonzaga) to cut the deficit to three at 5-2, but ultimately it was not enough, as the South pitching staff, led by five Corvallis Knights, limited them to five hits over nine innings, and retired six of the final seven batters faced, to secure the 5-2 victory.
Game Notes: Yakima Valley’s Connor White (Portland) started the game and allowed a double by Johnson in the top of the first but stranded a pair on the bases and struck out two. Bonniksen, who allowed the two-run home run in the bottom of the first to Granberg, took the loss. Corvallis’ Cason Cunningham (Linfield College) earned the win by working a scoreless second inning. Khalil Rivera of Bend (Treasure Valley CC) and Dakota Donovan (Oregon State), Tanner Howell (Dixie State), Jordan Qsar (Pepperdine) and Chase Kaplan (Kansas) of Corvallis all pitched scoreless frames for the South, with Kaplan throwing a scoreless ninth to earn the win. White, Cunnigham, Donovan and Howell each struck out a pair while Cowlitz’s Corbin Powers (Portland), allowed a run, but struck out three in his inning of work. Victoria’s Adam McKillican (UBC) and Travis Kuhn (San Diego), Walla Walla’s Darius Vines (Oxnard) and Kelowna’s Cal Hehnke (Nebraska-Omaha) all threw up zeros for the North with Kuhn and Hehnke striking out two a piece.
Johnson led the way with two hits for the North, while Granberg and Sordahl each tallied a multi-hit night for the South in the win. Granberg became the first player to hit two home runs in a West Coast League All-Star Game. Granberg is the third Cowlitz player to earn WCL All-Star Game MVP honors, joining Spencer O’Neil in 2011 and Kyle Knigge in 2013.
With the win, the South is now 4-0 against the North in All-Star Games since the WCL changed from the East and West Divisions in 2013.
With the All-Star Game over, all eyes shift towards the stretch run of the West Coast League season. Kelowna and Corvallis have already locked up playoff berth’s with their first half victories, while Cowlitz (7-2) and Wenatchee (6-3) currently lead the way, respectively, in the WCL South and North.
ABOUT THE WEST COAST LEAGUE
The West Coast League is the premier summer collegiate baseball league west of the Mississippi. The 13-year-old, 11-team, professionally operated wood-bat league located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest features pro prospects from major conferences across the nation and an unparalleled history out west of great fan and player experiences in addition to the best summer weather in North America. 82 players with WCL experience were selected in the MLB 2017 June draft. In 2016, more than 230 WCL alums appeared in affiliated professional baseball including 28 in the major leagues, such as 2015 home-run leader Chris Davis (Baltimore), 2015 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Matt Duffy (Tampa Bay) and rising star pitchers Matt Andriese (Tampa Bay), Matt Boyd (Detroit) and James Paxton (Seattle); and outfielder Mitch Haniger (Arizona, now Seattle). Overall member attendance was 379,611 in 2016.