Over the course of a 140-game season, the Frederick Keys count on Willy Yahn’s energy.
And on Tuesday night at Nymeo Field, so did the Northern Division All-Stars.
Yahn’s energy and timely hits fueled an eight-run rally in the Carolina League All-Star Classic as the Northern Division All-Stars rallied from a five-run deficit for an 8-7 victory over the Southern Division All-Stars before an announced crowd of 6,923.
“I was saying we are going to have the greatest All-Star Game comeback in history. I knew we were going to do it,” said Yahn after going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. “[Teammates] were saying, ‘Ahhh, you know, he’s a little crazy.’ But I am a little crazy.”
After five lifeless innings for the Northern Division offense, Yahn’s two-out double in the bottom of the sixth inning provided a jump start. He drove an 0-2 pitch from Southern Division pitcher Will Kincanon of the Winston-Salem Dash into a center-field gap to score a pair of runs and cut his team’s deficit to 5-3.
Yahn later singled in the eighth inning to help set the table for the game-winning hit, a three-run homer to left by Potomac’s Nick Banks, who was later named the game’s MVP after going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
“That’s pretty awesome, man, for these guys to be able to come out and come back from the deficit that we had, especially in front of a crowd like this that gave us good energy,” said Keys manager Ryan Minor, who served as the skipper for the Northern All-Stars.
Minor said if he had nine players like Yahn, he’d never lose a game.
The Baltimore Orioles’ 25th-round draft choice in 2017 out of the University of Connecticut typically has a pep in his step and a smile on his face. His straight, shoulder-length hair bobs underneath his cap and his batting helmet.
His old-school flair is also on display, as Yahn wears high socks with the old-school baseball stirrups. His walk-up music for at-bats is Queen’s 1978 hit “Fat Bottomed Girls.”
“I just keep the positive energy in the dugout,” he said. “You never know what can happen over the course of a game. We had eight unearned runs in an All-Star Game. That’s pretty rare.”
Yahn was one of nine All-Stars for the Keys, which was the most for any of the 10 teams in the Carolina League.
All of the Keys’ All-Stars except for pitcher Cody Sedlock appeared in the game. Sedlock is scheduled to start Thursday night after an extended rest for his arm, as the Keys open the second half of the season in Wilmington, Delaware, against the Blue Rocks.
Keys pitcher Mike Baumann was selected to start for the Northern Division All-Stars after tying for the most strikeouts in the league (77) in the first-half of the season.
Baumann tossed a 1-2-3 inning for the Northern Division All-Stars without the benefit of a strikeout.
This marked the third time Frederick has hosted the Carolina League’s All-Star Game, having previously done it in 1991 and 2005.
Former Orioles star Nick Markakis won the home run derby and then slugged two home runs during the 2005 game to earn Most Valuable Player honors as a member of the Keys.
The Keys worked extensively for more than a year to put on the best possible show. The formal announcement they’d be hosting the game was made on June 25 of last year. Under the old format that pitted the Carolina League against the California League, Frederick was slated to host the All-Star Game in 2020.
So, this opportunity arose a year ahead of schedule.
“My staff worked so hard the last 18 months to put this event on,” Keys general manager Dave Ziedelis said. “There is no better feeling than seeing it all come together so well. I think we can feel good about what we set out to do.”
During the pregame festivities, the Southern Division prevailed in the skills competition, as Mario Feliciano (1830) and Payton Henry (1170) of the Carolina Mudcats and Zach Remillard (940) of the Winston-Salem Dash generated 3,940 points hitting various targets around the field.
The Northern Division finished with 3,190 points behind Pedro Castellanos (665) and Ryan Fitzgerald (1,725) of the Salem Red Sox and Oscar Gonzalez (800) of the Lynchburg Hillcats.