Illig Rolls to WCL Home Run Derby Title
Chase Illig of the Bellingham Bells (West Virginia) hit his sixth home run of the season on Sunday night within the familiar confines of Joe Martin Field. He had no issue transferring that power over to Yakima County Stadium on Monday night, as he blasted 11 home runs in round one and cruised to a wire-to-wire victory in the 2017 West Coast League Home Run Derby presented by Wildhorse Casino.
Illig, a powerful left-handed batter, who catches for the Bells, got off to a great start as the fourth hitter in round one among the field of ten, and his 11 homers paced the group. He did have some early competition, however, from Nick Nyquist of the Walla Walla Sweets (Gonzaga), Taylor Wright of the Kelowna Falcons (Maryland) and Hunter Vansau of the Victoria HarbourCats (Mississippi State), who each blasted nine homers to advance to round two. Evan Johnson of the Wenatche AppleSox (Northern Colorado) came up just short hitting eight, as did Jordan Qsar of Corvallis (Pepperdine) with seven, while Lucas Denney of the Yakima Valley Pippins (Seattle U), Devlin Granberg of the Cowlitz Black Bears (Dallas Baptist) and Ian Nowak of the Port Angeles Lefties (UC Riverside) each hit five. Jack Pauly of the Bend Elks (Northern Colorado) managed just one long ball in round one.
In round two, Wright and Vansau each paced the group early with six home runs until Illig hit seven with four outs remaining in his round and decided to stop there. Nyquist fell just short with five home runs.
In the final, Wright and Vansau each struggled to just two long balls, setting the stage for Illig, who hit three home runs in his redshirt freshman campaign with the Mountaineers. The Bluefield, West Virginia native collected two home runs with six outs remaining in his final round and then blasted a towering shot over the right field fence for the winning home run to take home the title.
With the derby over, the 2017 WCL All-Star Game presented by the Yakima Valley Traffic Safety Taskforce is set to take center-stage on Tuesday night. Earlier Monday, the probable starters from each side were announced with Nick Bonniksen of the Port Angeles Lefties (Dixie State, 4-0, 3.08 ERA) getting the start for the North while Connor White of the Yakima Valley Pippins (Portland, 6 saves, 1.97 ERA) will get the game started for the South.
You can listen to the game on KUTI-1460 ESPN Yakima or via the online stream here: http://1460espnyakima.com/listen-live/popup/ with pregame coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m. Jack Benjamin (voice of the Yakima Valley Pippins) and Ben Farber (voice of the Walla Walla Sweets) will call the action with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from Yakima County Stadium.