North pitching key for Merced All-Stars

MERCED -- Justin Steelman was lost in the moment.

The Hilmar baseball coach saw one of his pitchers struggling and was about to make a trip to the mound. Just before he left the dugout one of his assistant's reminded Steelman it was an all-star game.

"You kind of get stuck in your own little realm," Steelman said. "You got the best players in Merced County. Just to see all the talent from other schools that we don't get to see was enjoyable."

"At one point I was going to go talk to one of my pitchers."

But he held back and it all worked out in the end.

The return of the Merced County All-Star Game was a success as a large crowd gathered at Merced College to watch the North beat the South 10-3 Saturday night.

"This is something Merced County needed," Steelman said. "It's been over 10 years since this game was played. It was good to get together with some other coaches to bring it back. I think this was a big success."

The night got off to rocky start when word made its way from Mariposa that junior Jarrett Leonard was involved in a car accident on his way to the game.

Leonard was on his way to the high school to pick up his teammates for the trip to Merced.

He was flown to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto as a precaution. There was no one by that name at DMC late Saturday night.

"It was kind of a shock to show up to the park and get that news," Steelman said. "It looks like hopefully he's going to be all right."

The game went on without a hitch as the North pitchers put on a show.

Livingston's D.J. Jantz, Buhach Colony's Matt Voris, Gustine's Ben Griset and Atwater's Armando Garcia combined to strike out 11. The North jumped on top with a six-run second inning. Garcia delivered the big blow in the inning with a two-run double.

"It felt like we played as a team," Garcia said. "I was surprised we played so well together.

"We kind of built up momentum. That's all you need to do. Especially with all these great players."