Competing as an All-Star for the first time was no problem for St. Louis Spikes outfielder Cameron Lofton on Wednesday at GCS Ballpark.
A former standout at Belleville West, Lofton went 3-for-4 and scored three runs as the Mon-Clair League continued its mastery of the Clinton County League with a 7-2 win in the annual All-Star game between area amateur leagues. Lofton, who also added two stolen bases and made a pair of nice running catches in center field, was named the MVP for the Mon-Clair League.
Ryan Meyer (Bartelso), who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, was chosen MVP for the Clinton County League.
But it was Lofton, who graduated from West in 2012 and is attending Southwestern Illinois College, who shined the brightest. Lofton led off the third inning with a single and scored to ignite a three-run Mon-Clair League outburst, when it took a 4-0 lead.
"Was I nervous? First All-Star game and my first year playing with the (St. Louis) Spikes, I was a little nervous each of my at bats,'' Lofton said. "I just tried to make good contact and do what I could do to help this team win.
"I grew up playing ball with a lot of these guys, so it was nice to have a chance to compete with them tonight. Tomorrow we'll go right back to being rivals again.''
Sam Lidisky (Millstadt), the first of nine pitchers used by manager Norm Toenjes, was the winning pitcher for the Mon-Clair All-Stars, which have won seven of its last eight battles with the CCL.
The Clinton County League's only win since 2006 came in the 2011 game by a 10-4 score.
Toenjes said that winning the All-Star game remains important to the players.
"It's important because these guys are all competitors. For some of them who have been around a while, they get a chance to show they can still play at a high level," Toenjes said. "For some of the younger guys, it's a chance to show they belong.
"Cameron had a big night for us and I thought the fact that both he and Tony Kossina have the ability to get on base, steal bases and have the ability to create scoring chances was a big part of our success tonight.''
The Mon-Clair League All-Stars wasted little time taking the lead against CCL starter Brad Bozic (Carlyle).
Ace of the Carlyle pitching staff, Bozic started the game by walking lead-off hitter Kossina (Millstadt) on a 3-2 pitch. Kossina then stole second base and went to third when Jeff Schwierjohn grounded out. Dan Munoz (Belleville) then drove a Bozic pitch to medium center for a sacrifice fly, easily scoring Kossina for a 1-0 lead.
Lidisky and Joey Grzywacz (Belleville) held the Clinton County scoreless in the first two innings before the CCL fell even further behind.
David Parkinson (Centralia) took over on the mound in the top of the third inning and with one out gave up a single to Lofton. Lofton stole second and advanced to third on wild pitch. Kossina then walked to put runners on first and third.
Schwierjohn followed with a line-drive single, making it 2-0. Three pitches later, Munoz lined a run-scoring double to give the Mon-Clair League a 3-0 lead.
Munoz leads the Mon-Clair League with a .512 batting average.
Kyle Stanton (Millstadt) drove in the final run of the inning on a fielder's choice.
After threatening to get on the scoreboard in the third inning, the CCL finally broke through in the fourth when Meyer lined a pitch from Brandon Musso (Waterloo) over the right-field wall.
Perhaps a little unsettled, Musso then walked Brett Dierkes and Andy Kuehn and allowed a single to Jacob Flick to load the bases with two outs. Musso got out of the inning when he got Paul Ritzheimer to line out to center.
Kossina and the CCL's Todd Bauer then exchanged run-scoring singles in the middle innings, making it to 5-2 after five innings.
The speedy Lofton then helped ignite another Mon-Clair outburst the sixth. With two outs, the Spikes' Chris Scoggins walked and Lofton beat out a bunt single. Veteran Mark Tampow (Belleville) and Jesse Schmidt (Fairview Heights) then drove run-scoring singles to make it 7-2.