As a rule, Avista Stadium — home of the Northwest League’s Spokane Indians — usually won’t root much for Peter Van Gansen, a member of the North Division rival Tri-City Dust Devils.
But by the end of Tuesday night’s inaugural All-Star Game between the Northwest League and Pioneer League, those fans remaining from the announced crowd of 7,083 were rooting for the human spark plug out of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Van Gansen smacked the first pitch from Missoula Osprey pitcher Dan Savas for a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning, bringing home Spokane’s Yeyson Yrizarri for a 6-5 Northwest League win.
As Van Gansen crossed second base, the entire dugout surrounded him and doused him with a bucket of Gatorade. Meanwhile, the Spokane fans cheered him as if he were one of their own.
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Not a bad way to end your first professional All-Star experience.
“It’s definitely (a memory) I’ll cherish for a very long time,” said Van Gansen, who went 1-for-2 in four plate appearances, walking twice. “That first pitch, I was looking fastball. I saw it pretty well out of his hand.”
Pioneer League right fielder Amalani Fukofuka (Idaho Falls Chukars) gave chase all the way and looked as if he might get to it. But the ball dipped away from him as he dived for one final effort.
“I was definitely watching it all the way,” said Van Gansen, who was named the game’s MVP.
The big hit capped a thrilling night with six lead changes and five ties, giving the capacity crowd an unforgettable beginning to what promises to be a competitive series between the leagues.
“It’s more fun to go up against another league than it is to play against your own,” Boise Hawks third baseman Kevin Padlo said.
Savas took the loss for the Pioneer League. Seattle Mariners prospect Luiz Gohara of the Everett AquaSox picked up the win for the NWL, tossing 21/3 scoreless innings.
David Denson of the Helena Brewers went 2-for-3 with a home run and an RBI single to lead the Pioneer offense. Daniel Suero (Grand Junction Rockies) added a pair of doubles.
Padlo went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. He reached base all five times, including on a dropped third strike in the bottom of the eighth.