East tops West in Perfect Game All-American Classic
Cortes earns MVP; every pitcher reaches 90 mph on gun, led by Groome's 96
By Beth Maiman
SAN DIEGO -- The Perfect Game All-American Classic was held on Sunday at Petco Park, as 50 of the best high school players and Draft prospects in America took the field to showcase their talent.
The East team defeated the West, 3-1, on a 90-degree evening, making it the first time in the last four years that the East has come out on top.
An hour before first pitch, Blake Rutherford and Ben Rortvedt from the West, and Joe Rizzo and Alex Kirilloff, representing the East All-Americans, battled in the Home Run Derby.
Each participant had three minutes and was awarded an additional 30 seconds if they hit back-to-back home runs. All participants were awarded the extra 30 seconds in the first round.
Kirilloff hit 11 homers and Rutherford 10 to advance to the final round. Rizzo finished the first round with nine home runs and Rortvedt six.
Rutherford looked solid throughout the final round, but his 11 home runs weren't enough to beat Kirilloff, who hit 12 with 30 seconds to spare. Kiriloff started off slow, but hit eight in a row to earn the title of the 2015 winner.
"The more you do it, the more you get comfortable with everyone watching," Kirilloff said. "Being here, I was very comfortable and I was just able to put 12 out there."
Despite Petco being a pitcher-friendly park, Kirilloff joked that it didn't seem that way to him after his performance in the Derby.
"I am not a huge home run hitter," Kirilloff said. "In a game, it's probably a little different."
Every pitcher that took the mound on Sunday topped out above 90 mph, with lefty Jason Groome, who started the game for the East, recording the highest fastball velocity at 96 mph.
"I got the start, so I was happy about that," said Groome, who is an early candidate to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 Draft. "My pitches were working well. I got a 1-2-3 inning and I felt great. Starting is what I like to do, but overall, I had a good day."
The East was the first team to put runs on the board, as a wild pitch from Ryan Zeferjahn would score Kirilloff. Outfielder Brandon McIlwain followed with a triple to right-center. McIlwain, who is committed to the University of South Carolina to play quarterback as well as baseball, scored on an error by West shortstop David Hamilton on the next play to make it 2-0.
Walker Robbins gave the West its first run of the game with an RBI triple in the right-center field gap to score Ben Baird.
Carlos Cortes, another South Carolina commit, won the MVP award and grabbed attention with two hard-hit singles in the game. The Oviedo, Fla., native capped off his performance with a huge play in shallow right field in the top of the ninth, sliding to make a catch to secure East's lead.
"I was trying to help the team win and do everything I could to get the win, and we came out with the W," Cortes said. "I am very excited to be attending South Carolina. We'll see what happens in the Draft, but I am very excited for that."
Nolan Jones added a run for the East with a RBI triple in the eighth to the left-center gap to score Mario Feliciano, who was hit by a pitch in his at-bat.
Second baseman Alexis Torres had a standout defensive play, diving for a ground ball to hold the West scoreless through the fifth inning. The West's Tyler Fitzgerald showed up on defense with a diving play in the eighth to hold a runner to just a single and followed up with a double play, tagging the the runner going to second, then throwing to first base to end in the inning.
Southern California native Mickey Moniak showed his talent and speed in his second at-bat, during the fourth inning. Moniak laced a single to right field then went on to steal second and third.
As the game wrapped up, many of the players were all smiles, taking photos with their teammates, honorary chairman Trevor Hoffman and Padres reliever Craig Kimbrel, who came onto the field as the team returned from Colorado.
"This is awesome," Cortes said after the game. "It's been the best. Nothing can compare."
Beth Maiman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.