The East had quite the daunting task Wednesday night at the 35th annual Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game at Comerica Park.
Co-Michigan Mr. Baseballs Tommy Henry of Portage Northern and John Baker of Hartland were both pitching for the West.
After a slow offensive start, the West offense woke up for an 8-3 victory.
Henry and Baker played against each other in the state tournament, but now they were on the same side.
Baker pitched all 10 innings in a 2-1 victory over Henry’s Northern team in 2015. Henry, a lefty, pitched eight innings and each allowed just one earned run in the Division 1 classic.
Henry is head to Michigan while Baker will continue his career at Ball State.
Being at Comerica Park and honored as as the top two players in the state was humbling for the Baker, who started the game on the mound, and Henry, who came on in relief in the second inning.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Henry said. “I played against John Baker in the state championship. He’s an extremely good pitcher. He shut us down. …. To be in that kind of group with him makes me very proud.
“This means a lot. I’ve grown up watching kids play on this field for the All-Star Game. I’ve seen a couple of people that I know won Mr. Baseball. To be in that kind of company makes me happy.”
For Baker, it was equally as thrilling.
“It’s just breathtaking being out here with all these great baseball players,” he said. “Tommy’s a real good pitcher. Facing him in last year’s state championship we both fought it out and I’m glad we were able to share the award.
“I’m just kind of speechless getting the award. It’s being one of the best players in the state. It’s an honor, especially with Tommy.”
Baker didn’t allow a run in his one inning of work and gave up just a single.
Henry wasn’t as fortunate.
He gave up singles to Karl Kaufman (Birmingham Brother Rice) and Devin Dudal (Sterling Heights Stevenson) before throwing a wild pitch. Then, Utica Eisenhower’s Andrew Szalkowski singled, driving in two runs to give the East an early lead. A second wild pitch put Szalkowski on third.
He was named the East’s MVP.
“I wouldn’t want my career to end any other way or on any other field,” said Szalkowski. “It was exciting. It was nice to be around these guys all week.”
An error at shortstop produced the East’s third run of the inning. After three wild pitches and three runs allowed, Henry was done for the night on the mound. He retreated to centerfield and struck out in the bottom of the third. He made a spectacular play in centerfield on a drive by Szalkowski in the top of fourth.
The West offense went without a hit until Gunner Rainey’s (Adrian Madison) RBI single trimmed the West deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth.
Back-to-back singles, the second coming from Luke Sleeper (Haslett) tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Muskegon Mona Shores’ Tyler Trovinger doubled down the leftfield line to give the West a 4-3 lead. He later scored from second on two errors.
West MVP Bryce Kelley (Rockford) had a walk and a double in the four-run sixth.
“It’s such an honor and amazing to be here,” said Kelley, who’s headed to Michigan State. “And winning MVP makes it even more of a blessing. Being around these guys I’m never going to forget the memories.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.